Tri Cities considering wastewater solutions

Published 4:47 pm Thursday, May 16, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The cities of Cumberland, Benham and Lynch are searching for a solution to issues with each of the cities’ wastewater facilities. A public meeting was held at the Benham Schoolhouse Inn recently where residents, state, county, and city officials met to discuss options for addressing the problem.

Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley talked about issues covered during the meeting.

“The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) had selected the Tri Cities for a community assessment evaluating the water treatment plants,” Mosley said. “The three systems have had regulatory compliance issues for years and have been issued violations by the Division of Water.”

Email newsletter signup

Mosley explained the EPA had identified Cumberland, Benham, and Lynch as an area needing assistance.

“Over the last year, a consultant that the EPA contracted has been evaluating the wastewater treatment plants in that area,” Mosley said. “Last night (Wednesday, May, 14) was the presentation of the proposed solutions on how to address the wastewater treatment up there moving forward.”

Mosley noted it was recommended the three cities either enter into interlocal agreements with each other and send all sewer to the Cumberland treatment facility or create a joint sewer agency. The Harlan County Fiscal Court would also be involved in a joint sewer agency.

“The Harlan County Fiscal Court would be involved in that by ordinance in which all sewer assets would be transferred to a newly created joint sewer agency,” Mosley said.

No decisions were made at the meeting, Mosley pointed out.

“It was very apparent there were people that were receptive to the input the EPA and the consultant offered,” Mosley said. “Cumberland, Benham, and Lynch will consider next steps at their next city council meetings moving forward.”

Each city will have to decide what action to take in addressing the wastewater situation. All three cities would have to agree to a joint sewer agency for that option to work, Mosley said.

“It was asked they make decisions within the next 90 days,” Mosley said. “It’s my understanding they will be considering resolutions at their next council meetings at least committing to working together to achieve a solution with a commitment to participate in follow up meetings.”

Mosley mentioned the cities should first address the problem of stormwater getting into the sewer systems.

“That’s creating a burden on each system, there’s no point in treating rainwater,” Mosley said. “So, that’s the first phase of the project that will have to be done, the inflow and infiltration in all of the systems will have to be addressed before there’s any type of merger of the actual sewer services.”

Given the complexity of the issues, it may take some time for action to be taken.

Mosley commended the work done by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet.

“I appreciate Secretary Rebecca Goodman of the Energy and Environment Cabinet for her dedication to this process to try to see that solutions are found,” Mosley said. “Her team has worked closely with the cities and EPA throughout this process.”