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What caused Olive Hill’s sewage tap ban?

State agency paints a more complex picture of ongoing issue

By Jeremy D. Wells

Carter County Times

UPDATE: Mayor Jerry Callihan and FIVCO’s Eric Patton clarified the sewage issue on Tuesday night, at the regular meeting of Olive Hill Council. Callihan clarified, and Patton confirmed, that exemptions were allowed for residential taps. Only commercial sewage taps are impacted at present. Patton also noted that though the city’s sewer problem, caused by inflow and infiltration of creek and storm water, will cost upward of $5 million and a year of work to address, he is confident he can find the money if the city works with him. Full story next week.

When Jeremy Rayburn came before Olive Hill City Council last month asking about the state’s ban on new sewer taps in the city, and the impact of that ban on his planned car wash facility, Mayor Jerry Callihan placed the blame on former mayor Danny Sparks. Callihan said no one was aware of the issue other than Sparks, and said the former mayor agreed to a tap ban rather than paying a fine at that time.  

But a response from the state division of water places the tap ban in a larger context – showing a history of bans with the most recent occurring in 2019, under Callihan’s administration. 

According to Russell Neal, supervisor for the municipal planning section of the division of water, the original tap ban was placed in 2006, but was lifted after the city came back into compliance a short time later. 

A second ban was issued in 2019, he said. He said that letter was addressed to Kenny Fankel, care of the city’s sewage treatment facility; however, Fankel had passed away two years earlier without the state’s database ever being updated. Despite that, Neal said, the letter was sent to the city and should have been received by his successor.  

Neal explained that regulations governing wastewater treatment, including the issuance of new sewage taps and tap bans, are covered under Section 401 of the Kentucky Administrative Regulations, Chapter 5 – specifically Regulation 005, section 9, the Municipal Water Pollution Prevention Program. This section defines how flows and organic loads are measured and reported.  

“If it reaches 90 percent of design capacity, the cabinet places them on a sewer connection ban,” Neal explained.  

Olive Hill, he said, was at over 100 percent of their design capacity at the time the ban was issued and appears to still be operating above capacity. As a result, he said, “any future sewer line extension would require an exception from the division of water.”  

He said the city has sent in one extension request, but the state still needs to look at the details.  

He also explained that cities are required to submit a facility plan every ten years. When asked about the city’s plans to construct a new sewage treatment facility in the future, and if that could improve their capacity, he said it was possible, but they would have to submit that new facility plan when they made their upgrade before it could be determined. 

When asked for additional details and documentation related to both the 2006 and 2019 sewer extension bans Neal said that information could only be released through an official Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.  

The Carter County Times has submitted that request. On Monday of this week we received an email response informing us that our particular request would take a few days longer than the typical three business days to complete the request.  

We should receive another response, with the requested records in an electronic format, within the next week and will provide updated information at that time.  

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com 



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