Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

February 14, 2014

Commission officially puts end to water crisis

Kenneth Hart
The Independent

ASHLAND — Though it was technically over three days earlier when a systemwide boil-water advisory was lifted, the Ashland Board of City Commissioners put an official end to the city’s water crisis at its meeting on Thursday.

It did so when it approved City Manager Ben Bitter’s consent agenda, which contained the following item:

“City Manager recommends that the Declaration of State of Water Emergency set by Resolution 3, 2014 be terminated.”

Mayor Chuck Charles, who declared the water emergency a special commission meeting on Feb. 3, said the crisis has severely tested the city’s mettle. But, thanks to “a total community effort,” it was able to pull through.

“That’s the way you get things done,” he said.

Charles thanked the plethora of individuals, organizations and agencies that came to the city’s aid during the crisis. He also said he wanted to thank “the citizens in general, just for being patient.”

The mayor said the crisis helped bear out a few areas in which the city could stand to improve. One, he said, is that manner in which it uses its website and social media to communicate with residents.

Charles said he had received numerous emails and phone calls about the city’s handling of the crisis. Some were unhappy, he acknowledged, “but the majority of them came to us with praise.”

The crisis began on Jan. 27 with a water main break at 25th Street and Carter Avenue that drained the city water system’s main storage tank at Deboard Hill. Myriad other line breaks would occur throughout the system, as the winter freeze-and-thaw cycle caused the ground to shift, which, in turn, caused the lines to rupture.

At the height of the emergency, between 7,000 and 10,000 water customers were without service, while others were experiencing low water pressure because of water loss from the line breaks, according to Bitter.  

Commissioner Cheryl Spriggs called the water crisis “unprecedented” and said in terms of severity and the number affected, it rated comparison with the 1937 flood.

Spriggs said she was hopeful the crisis would serve as both a wake-up call and a learning experience and that officials would review everything that transpired and “pinpoint areas where we need to improve.”

Commissioner Larry Brown said it was heartening to witness the manner in which the community came together to support one another during the crisis.

“I would expect nothing less from the people of Ashland,” he said.

“When crisis comes, character rises to the top,” Commissioner Marty Gute said.

Bitter said virtually every employee of the city was affected in some way by the crisis, and many were pressed into doing tasks outside their normal duties.

“They all pitched in to help us come to a resolution,” he said.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or

(606) 326-2654.