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Monday, June 5, 2023
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Solving the sewer problem

Olive Hill discusses options

By: Jeremy D. Wells

Carter County Times

Olive Hill discussed several different items during their regular meeting last Tuesday. These included improvements to Hop Brown Park suggested by a Morehead State University soil conservation class and refusing a request for additional funding from the library because they, “don’t have any wiggle room in the budget whatsoever,” councilman Chris Bledsoe explained.

They also moved to set the property tax rate at .223 per $100 of valuation, table the request for disbursement to Trane, and accept department reports.

This was all done after opening the meeting by going into executive session, though no clear reason for the executive session was stated.

But what everyone was really interested in was the sewage tap ban.

Eric Patton, water/wastewater and GIS planner with FIVCO, came to Olive Hill to talk about a grant to relocate a sewage pipe that currently goes over Tygart Creek, moving it underground. That $715,000 project is being covered full by a pair of no-match grants.

“It’s 100 percent paid,” Patton said.

But, he told council, he also believed he could help Olive Hill with their sewage tap issue as well.

Patton explained that he knew the problem with Olive Hill’s excessive flows were related not to residential or even commercial black and gray water but to inflow and infiltration. He said, depending on the weather and creek levels, anywhere from 30 percent to 70 percent of the water being treated at the facility was rain water or creek water that was infiltrating old clay sewage lines that had cracks and breaks. Not, he said, from sanitary sewer flow.

But, he said, he wasn’t aware of the problem until very recently. He explained that his job, as the water management coordinator for our regional development district, was to assist with such issues.

“My job is to help you guys,” he told council. “Sometimes that involves a little bit of pain, right? So, I’m going to be honest with you, the best I can tell, I have received a letter from the division of water they were supposed to send to me in 2019. For years the division of water did not do tap bans. They used orders or other methods of compliance, but they didn’t do those.”

In 2019, though, they decided to take those back up, he said. That’s when Olive Hill was hit with a tap ban.

“It’s unfortunate,” he said, but it doesn’t stop residential dwellings from adding taps.

“There’s a variance they can get to allow a single family dwelling to resolve sewer,” Patton said.

But, he said, they won’t allow anything else.

“It’s a compliance issue, and it’s there for your safety.”

He explained that a backflow incident during heavy rain could result in the city being penalized for EPA violations if it resulted in raw sewage being released into the creek.

He also said that if he was going to help the city, the city needed to communicate with him and with FIVCO.

“I’m going to be honest with you… until recently Olive Hill has been absent (from FIVCO meetings),” he said. And, he said, the city has been a victim of predatory engineering.

He told the mayor and council that he could come up with a plan, which would include smoking lines to find the areas with the worst leaks and either repairing or replacing them entirely. But, he said, it wouldn’t be a small project.

The cost could be upward of $5 million or more, and would take up to a year or more, but he believed he could secure grant funding for the project, if the city would make an effort to work with him.

“That’s a lot of money, and a lot of work to get that money, but I have a plan,” he said. “If you guys will work with me, I can help you.”

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com



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