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Kentucky Straight Pipes Report
Harlan, Martin, and Bath Counties

US-EPA, Region 4, SESD, Athens, Georgia

[ Full Report ]


During June 25th-27th, 2002 representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4, the Kentucky Division of Water, and the Kentucky Health Department assessed various communities in Harlan, Martin, and Bath counties in eastern and central Kentucky to determine the extent of unpermitted sewage discharges from "straight pipes" and evaluate if an alternative wastewater demonstration project was feasible in addressing the water pollution issues. This report provides background on straight-pipe and other wastewater problems, summarizes the areas that were visited during the EPA/KY site assessments, and provides a summary of the viable options to address the wastewater treatment issues. A complete listing of the EPA and State representatives who participated in the site assessment are presented in Appendix A. .

Executive Summary

The poor sanitary conditions and water pollution problems EPA observed in the Kentucky counties of Harlan, Martin, Bath, and Montgomery were of the highest concern. The widespread scale of both the straight pipe issues as well as package plant wastewater problems present an environmental crisis which deserves attention from all levels of government. These conditions are unprecedented in the United States and in many cases are comparable on a smaller scale to the water pollution problems that were prevalent prior to the Clean Water Act. At the current rate of investment in the solutions to these problems, many more generations of Kentucky citizens will continue to live under the same conditions that face many developing countries. The Commonwealth of Kentucky, however, is to be complimented on their recognition of the problem and the solutions they are currently implementing, which are outlined in this report.

Concerning the overall wastewater treatment problems, it was apparent that more than one general solution should be considered in order to meet the wastewater needs of the region. These solutions can be broken down into three categories. They are: (1) connection to an existing wastewater plant that has the capacity; (2) cluster systems; and (3) on site systems. Additionally, Kentucky should continue to investigate all sources of funding, implement reliable and proven low-tech wastewater systems as opposed to package plants, and investigate the most cost-effective means of sewering communities where needed. EPA involvement is crucial as the estimated total cost to address this wide scale problem is over $3 billion dollars (based on The States 1994 NEEDS Survey).

The original purpose of this project was to select a community for a pilot project which would demonstrate concepts presented in EPA's "decentralized wastewater systems" initiative. EPA believes that the Preston community in Bath County is an excellent location for a demonstration project. A strong owner/manager was present (electric coop), land is available for treatment, and the community is fairly compact. The community has purchased the land, raised significant funds, and awarded a contract for design of the system to a local engineering firm. A design-build contract for the 30,000 gallon/day treatment/disposal system will be advertised and awarded mid 2003. Completion of the entire system is slated for late 2003. Efforts to develop a program for promoting the demonstration project and facilitating technology transfer to neighboring communities and local engineering firms have been initiated by East Kentucky Power Company and other partners, and will be ongoing for the next two to three years.

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Kentucky Straight Pipes Report
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