State may ask local entity to be owner of Big Valley facility

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By Mallory Bilger

PRYOR VALLEY -- After months of inaction, the Kentucky Division of Water claims that wheels are in motion in Frankfort to correct the dysfunctional Big Valley Mobile Home Park sewage treatment facility.

The Division of Water -- which oversees privately licensed sewage treatment facilities like Big Valley -- has no record of any action taken to correct the problem by the state or anyone else between November 2008 and June 25, 2009.

Local officials and concerned citizens of the area have been communicating with the Division of Water to get answers of when something would be done to fix the plant, which causes a public health threat and undesirable living conditions.

According to a statement from the Division of Water, the treatment plant’s previous owner John Ford died in October 2008.

Bullitt County Sanitation District Director Jerry Kennedy said he believed the system had not been operational since then. Kennedy said that until the sanitation district began in late July pumping down the system’s holding tanks several times a week, 2,000 to 3,000 gallons of raw sewage had been seeping daily into nearby Blue Lick Creek.

The plant has been plagued with problems since the early 1980s, most of which have been blamed on low-income customers living in that area failing to pay their bills. Repairs are also estimated to be costly, as most of the lagoon system’s necessary pumps and other equipment have malfunctioned, Kennedy said.

The Division of Water’s enforcement division has recently taken over the case. According to a Division of Water statement, it was referred to the Office of General Council’s Environmental Protection Legal Division for legal action. According to the statement, a complaint would be filed in Franklin Circuit Court against Big Valley and a receiver for the plant would be appointed.

According to the statement, a Frankfort attorney has shown interest in receiving the plant, subject to court approval. The attorney will then work with the Public Service Commission to complete the needed repairs and the plant will most likely be handed off to a local agency for operation.

The Division of Water identified the city of Shepherdsville as a likely recipient and permittee of the plant since it is located within the city’s sewage treatment planning area.

Shepherdsville’s City Attorney Bill Wilson said he had not yet met with state officials or investigated the legality of the city could being forced to take over the Big Valley treatment facility.

Wilson said the state could strongly urge the city to take over the facility since it does fall within the city’s planning area.

He acknowledged a solution needed to be identified as quickly as possible for health and environmental reasons and said city officials would be more than willing to meet with state and other local officials to help solve the problem.

Division of Water officials could not give a timeline as to when the problem might be corrected for good. In the meantime, the Bullitt County Sanitation District continues to provide temporary maintenance to the plant to prevent sewage overflow into the creek. The Division of Enforcement has also imposed a sanction impeding new mobile homes to move into the park until the system is fixed.

Kennedy said he did not want to abandon the residents of the area and would volunteer as much time and manpower as the sanitation district could afford until the problem was permanently fixed.