A water supply for the Cumberland River area continues to be a problem for the Letcher County Water and Sewer District in what should otherwise be a time to celebrate a good deal of progress toward getting water service to Letcher County residents.
At the March meeting of the board of directors of the Water And Sewer District, Board Chairman Phillip “Peewee” Back asked a coal company employees’ representative attending the meeting from the Cumberland River area if the company he works for or its union had enough influence with the City of Cumberland to get a plan back on track for Cumberland to supply water to Letcher County.
Back made the request to Kenny Spangler, who was at the meeting to offer the services of Cumberland River Coal to the Water and Sewer District. The entire Cumberland River water project relies on finding a suitable source of water to supply the needs of the Letcher County residents on the south side of Pine Mountain. The board has conducted negotiations with the Pound, Va., Water District and looked at the possibility of developing the district’s own source from the Cumberland River or even from old deep mines. The most promising and agreed upon source has been the City of Cumberland.
Water and Sewer District Attorney Jamie Hatton told the board he has tried numerous times to speak with the attorney for the Pound district, but said he hasn’t even been able to speak with the attorney or get his calls returned. Developing a water source of its own would require finding a supply as well as building a separate treatment plant, so the Cumberland option is preferred. Cumberland officials have continued to stall on a final agreement.
The current roadblock arose when Cumberland water officials asked for another study to make sure the city can supply the needs of Harlan County residents within the Cumberland district as well as the Letcher County residents along the Poor Fork basin of Cumberland River. This occurred after the Harlan County Fiscal Court had assured Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward that the source was secure and said it would begin construction soon on a 10-inch main line to connect to lines in Letcher County.
Board Chairman Back told Spangler that while the Water and Sewer District would appreciate any help off ered by the Cumberland River Coal Employees Association, a secure water source was by far the greatest need. Back said the continued back and forth has done little to get water to the residents along Cumberland River and added that the best assistance the employees association could offer the board was to help in getting water to residents from Partridge to Eolia.
“The Judge (Ward) contacted the Harlan County Judge and they told him that everything was go, but nothing is going,” said Back
In other business, a report from Bell Engineering shows progress being made in several areas, particularly since the “spring thaw” seems to be underway and the miserable weather conditions that hampered pipeline work in January and February have ended. The crucial Knott County Interconnect that will bring water from Carr Creek Lake through the Knott County Water District is under construction and the contractor is working along county and state roads.
The Garner Mountain Project is ready to begin construction at the District’s directive and the board voted to accept the $175,051.50 bid from Stotts Construction of Columbia, Ky., to begin work on the Premium/Highway160 Project. Stotts submitted the low bid and Bell Engineering recommended accepting it. Lee Lowe of Bell Engineering said the funding in place should take the pipeline to Beetree Fork’s intersection with KY 160 at Premium, but not up that road, although the job has been designed to extend lines to the forks of the road in Premium. The work will be done is phases for funding purposes.
Projects to run lines on Elk Creek, Bull Creek, Pine Creek, Cram Creek, Pert Creek, and Carcassonne have been approved for funding by Abandoned Mine Lands and the board awaits AML’s letter of notification on the timing of fund release. The Thornton Water Project is ready to go to bid and the Loggy Hollow project is ready for construction when funding is available. Other projects are in various stages of development, but the crucial piece of the puzzle is the Knott County Interconnect, which will take care of water supply issues on the Whitesburg side of Pine Mountain.
In the Superintendent’s Report, Superintendent Tim Reed told the board the District had approximately 19 percent water loss in February but added that workers have found the worst of the leaks caused by the sub-freezing temperatures and repaired four fire hydrants that were leaking as well. Reed said the loss estimate is not exact, because the Blackey Water Plant has some problems with telemetry and is not graphing correctly. He said corrections have been made and he expects more exact readings for March. He estimated a water loss of 1.6 million gallons, which could cost the District approximately $4,700. Kentucky Rural Water considers a water loss of up to 20 percent to be within normal usage patterns.
Reed also said his crews have inspected pumping stations and found one chlorine leak which will require repairs. A bad starter box at the Little Cowan station will have to be replaced and trees fell on the fence at the Sandlick water tank. Reed said there are also problems with a hillside across from the Cowan tank that is slipping, but said the tank is in no danger and isn’t leaking. He said he is keeping the water level in the tank to a minimum for safety anyway.
Reed reported a current customer base of 2,032 for the county district and said work crews have completed 43 work orders. He also said that Blackey Plant Operator Richard Harr had reported several meters that need to be replaced. Chairman Back told Harr to get estimates and he would pick them up and do the paperwork.