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Discharge leads to angry resident

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By Zach Osowski

Dave Lorenz grabs a stick and stirs up the water and silt in a creek running through his property and almost instantly a black cloud forms in the water before slowly drifting downstream.

Lorenz then hikes a hundred yards upstream and stirs the water again but this time the color is noticeably not black. A few worried minnows swim away, fauna that is absent just a little way down the creek.

The only difference between the two spots? A discharge pipe dumping water from the Orchard Grass Water Treatment Plant sits in the middle and Lorenz said the discharge is ruining the stream.

Lorenz said he noticed black sludge running out of a discharge pipe from the plant on the weekend of Sept. 14 and 15, turning the creek a dark black color and killing a lot of fish in the area. This is also not the first time this has happened, Lorenz said. He said he has tried to get the Oldham County Environmental Authority to address the problem but has been ignored.

“I’ve had it,” Lorenz said. “I can’t stand them raping the environment like this.”

Vickie Miller, Community Relations Manager for OCEA, confirmed there was a “treated discharge with some solids in it” from the plant over the weekend. She blamed an illegal dumping of oil down one of the storm drains for the discharge Lorenz is upset about.

Lorenz said he had to call in the Kentucky Division of Water to get something done about the latest spill. A worker came down to examine the creek and issued the plant a citation which is what prompted OCEA to clean the creek.

On Sept. 19 OCEA sent a clean-up crew into the creek to try and clean up some of the sludge left behind.

Lorenz said he doesn’t buy the oil explanation because he found toilet paper in the creek over the weekend. He said the plant is over capacity and occasionally fails which leads to contaminated discharges.

Miller disagreed and said while the plant is old, it is not over-used.

“The Orchard Grass Hills treatment plant has available capacity,” Miller said. “So he is incorrect, we are not over capacity.”

The plant was built in the 1970s, making it old for a water treatment plant. Miller said the authority hopes to have a new plant constructed and ready by 2015 so they could shut down the Orchard Grass Hills plant.

Miller said clean up of the creek is necessary every so often because the discharge settles in the low points but she said the discharge is clean.

“It’s not as if the plant is overflowing,” she said.

Miller said the OCEA understands the complaint about the discharge but added that the creek is not recreational, a point Lorenz disagreed with.

“It might not be recreational to them, but to us it is,” he said. “We used to wade in it and go fishing in it before they ruined it.”

The creek runs along the back of Lorenz’s property who said the smell from the creek was almost unbearable the weekend of the spill. Even a week and a half later, the smell is still strong in some places as the clean up crews in bright yellow suits try to suck up the sludge.

Lorenz said his property used to be bigger but he sold the sewer district an easement a few years back so they could add more pipes to run to the plant.

“They cut down all the trees to put the pipes in and ruined that land, now they’ve ruined the creek too,” Lorenz said.

Lorenz said he has contacted an environmental lawyer but is unsure whether he wants to bring a suit forward. He said he feels like his property has been destroyed and he is worried about the larger impact of the spills as well.

“This eventually gets to the Ohio River,” he said, pointing at the water. “People in Louisville could end up drinking this stuff.”

 

Email us about this story at zach@oldhamera.com.