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Sewer group recommends no major changes

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By TOM BARR

LANDMARK NEWS SERVICE

LOUISVILLE -- While a luxury car might be preferred, a consulting firm looking at possible sewer facilities in a tri-county area has recommended something similar to what is now being driven.

Strand Associates Inc. made its recommendation to members of the Salt River Regional Wastewater work group last week.

Instead of opting for spending over $643 million on two massive regional treatment plants, project manager Mark Sneve instead said the recommendation would be to continue to operate the current wastewater facilities in Bullitt, Oldham and Jefferson counties.

But the recommendation would also be to continue regular meetings of the work group to look for possible ways for smaller-scale cooperative efforts.

Under House Bill 26, which was started by state Rep. Linda Belcher and followed through two years ago, the work group regional approach was approved.

The legislature made it possible for areas to voluntarily work together. In addition to the three participating counties, Hardin and Meade were also eligible but chose not to participate.

The work group, which includes the Bullitt County Sanitation District, Bullitt Fiscal Court, city of Shepherdsville, city of Mount Washington, Oldham County Environmental Authority, Oldham Fiscal Court and Metropolitan Sewer District, pooled funds to supply $90,000 needed for the Strand study.

Sneve said several things have happened since the conception of the regionalized efforts that may have affected the reality of adoption of the other two recommendations. In Bullitt County, both Mount Washington and Shepherdsville recently had major expansions to their sewer treatment plants.

In Oldham County, a new treatment facility will start construction soon near the Hite Creek MSD plant.

“Timing is very important,” said Sneve.

What Sneve felt could happen in the future is the cooperative efforts on a smaller scale between the various entities. For example, he said there could be some sewer issues in Jefferson County that could be better addressed by either Mount Washington or the Bullitt County Sanitation District.

The consultant outlined three alternatives.

The first option would be to keep the 23 package treatment plants and the eight regional plants in operation as they currently exist.

Over the course of the next 20 years, there would still be added costs due to changing environmental requirements on the treatment of nutrients.

Included in the $191 million cost would be the construction of a new treatment plant for the Bullitt County Sanitation District. The price tag was estimated at over $39 million.

Oldham County is slated to spend $16.6 million.

A second alternative would be to start consolidating some of the smaller plants. Over $293 million would be spent in this alternative.

The most expensive option would be to eliminate all but two regional facilities -- Hite Creek and Salt River.

This was the Cadillac of the alternatives with a real dollar cost of $643 million.

While there were a lot of dollars discussed, state Division of Water representative Shafiq Amawi said a major point was being overlooked.

“This is the start of the process to get better water quality,” said Amawi.

He said the improvements would bring about better treatment technology and the high-tech plants would be more efficient and save on energy costs, as well as being better for the environment.

“This is a good step in the right direction,” Amawi said of the discussions.

A concern by members of the Floyd Fork Environmental Association was the lack of environmental studies in advance. They were also concerned about the lack of public participation and notification.

Amawi said there would be environmental impact studies done before anything could move forward. But he said in terms of water quality, there is no doubt that there would be improvements.

Getting rid of existing package treatment plants would help tremendously, he added.

Ronnie Fick, public works foreman for the city of Mount Washington, was concerned that the cost estimates might be too low.

Greg Heitzman, executive director for MSD, said the public had been notified through various avenues.

Once the final report is prepared by Strand, Heitzman said the work group would then sit down and decide what to do next.

He expected it would take up to six months for the group to decide how to move forward.

If a commission is formed, Heitzman said that entity would have to go through all the normal legal notification standards to meet and to operate.

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