Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

February 27, 2013

Questions swirl about status of Wurtland facility

Greenup has huge stake in future of neighboring town's sewer plant

Kenneth Hart
The Independent

GREENUP — Greenup Mayor Lundie Meadows had some pointed questions Tuesday for two Wurtland officials about the future of that city’s wastewater treatment plant.

However, those officials — Wurtland water and sewer commissioner Tony Smith and Wayne Melvin, a former city commissioner who now serves as a liaison between the city and the contractor who operates the plant — said all they could say for certain was the facility would be undergoing changes as the result of the abrupt closure of the SunChemical Performance Pigment plant.

SunChemical was the sewer plant’s primary customer. The plant was designed by SunChemical, then known as PCI, when it was built in the 1990s but financed by the city of Wurtland, which still owes a debt service on it.

Greenup has a huge stake in the future of the plant because, after more than five years of discussing a regional sewer project, the city finally signed an agreement last year to have its wastewater piped to Wurtland for treatment, thereby creating the Greenup Joint Sewer Agency and the Greenup Waste Water District.

The initial line from Greenup to Wurtland is expected to cost $1.87 million and is being paid for with Kentucky Infrastructure Authority funds secured years ago for the project.  Eventually, plans call for sewer lines to be extended into Lloyd and other unincorporated parts of the county.

Wurtland officials have said they believe treating waste water from Greenup and other communities is crucial to the massive plant’s continued viability. Greenup’s own sewer plant is aging and in need of costly repairs or replacement, hence the move to join with Wurtland.

At Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Greenup City Council, Meadows told Smith and Melvin the city had yet to sign a contract with Wurtland, and that be believed it was incumbent upon city officials to move cautiously until more is known about what the ramifications of the SunChemical closure will be, particularly with regard to rates.

“This is something that’s going to affect the citizens of Greenup for the next 25 or 30 years,” he said. “It’s important for us to know what effect (SunChemical) pulling out is going to have on rates now and in the future.”

Melvin, who acts as a liaison between Wurtland and Veolia Industrial Services, which operates the sewer plant under a contract with the city, said the primary changes to the facility would involve converting it from an industrial plant to one that primarily treats municipal waste. SunChemical, he said, pumped huge amounts of ammonia into the plant, and that flow has come to a virtual halt since the pigment plant closed.

The plant is equipped with massive blowers, which produced the amounts of air required for treating ammonia, Melvin said. With that need greatly diminished, the facility will be fitted with smaller blowers to help save on electricity, he said.

Regarding rates Greenup would be paying to have its wastewater treated at Wurtland, Melvin said it was his understanding the rates that were quoted to the city in a study were premised on the assumption SunChemical was leaving.

Meadows said it was his understanding that of the $2 million in revenue generated by the sewer plant in 2010, $1.8 million came from SunChemical. Melvin said he didn’t have financial reports with him and could not confirm nor deny the accuracy of that figure, but he said it sounded correct to him.

Melvin told the mayor he would attempt to find answers to all his questions and said he was agreeable to future meeting with Meadows and the council.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.