Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

July 21, 2013

Big Sandy seeks to buy water from Ashland

Carrie Stambaugh
The Independent

ASHLAND — The Big Sandy Water District could soon become one of the biggest customers of the Ashland Water Works.

After more than eight years of planning, the district is poised to build a five-mile line that will tap into the Ashland system at England Hill. The $2 million dollar project is contingent upon the agency receiving U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development loan funding, said manager James Blanton.

Confirmation on the funding is expected by July 31. If approved, the district will move as quickly as possible to advertise for bids and award a construction contract, Blanton said. Construction could begin in the next several months and is expected to take between six and eight months.

When the extension is completed, Big Sandy has agreed to purchase at least 500,000 gallons of water a month from Ashland. On Thursday, the Ashland Board of City Commissioners approved the first reading of a contract between the two entities.

City Manager Steve Corbitt said the water sales will translate into $250,000 to $300,000 in new revenue for Ashland’s utility fund. It will replace about half the revenue lost from the closure last year of AK Steel’s Coke Plant, which purchased 1 million gallons monthly, Corbitt said.

“It’s a real good deal for us and for them, too,” said Corbitt, noting he’s been working on the project since his days as city engineer. Ashland’s water plant has excess capacity, and will still have the capability of producing another 1 million gallons of water a day, he said.

The planned extension will run south along U.S. 23, crossing under I-64 to the mouth of White’s Creek, Blanton said. It will allow the district to have another backup system of water from a different source. The district currently purchases water from the City of Kenova, the Cannonsburg Water District and the Rattlesnake Ridge District.

Blanton said the extension stems from the Kentucky Division of Water’s push to have backup systems from all multiple water providers. He cited the Martin County coal slurry spill of 2000 as an example. The huge spill contaminated the Big Sandy River and the City of Kenova, which draws its water from the river and was forced to shut off service.

At that time, Cannonsburg was able to supply Big Sandy with enough water for residential customers only, and service was suspended to its large industrial customers, including Calgon Carbon and AEP’s Big Sandy Power Plant.

The Ashland line would have come in handy then, as well as in 2011 when a leak was discovered in the water line that crosses the Big Sandy River from Kenova to the district, Blanton said.

“If we had this tie-in already completed, it would not have been a problem at all,” he said. “We could have closed one valve and opened another. Everybody would stay in water. We try to keep everybody in water as long as we can, and with multiple connections to systems it helps.”

The Big Sandy Water District serves 4,600 customers in Boyd, Lawrence, Carter and Johnson counties.  

CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at (606) 326-2653 or cstambaugh@dailyindependent.com.