Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

February 15, 2013

Officials try to sort through SunChemical shutdown

Carrie Stambaugh
The Independent

WURTLAND — City officials in Wurtland just don’t know yet exactly how the sudden closure of SunChemical Performance Pigments will affect the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

One thing is clear though: the specialized plant will not see the same volume and type of waste. But what that means remains a mystery.

“I don’t know what is going to happen, but things will have to change,” said Mayor Donna Hayes at a special city commission meeting early this week.  “We are working through it and we can hold on a while and that’s what we plan on doing,” she said.

Hayes said the entire city was caught off guard by the announcement last week that the plant was closing but plans to be as transparent as possible about its affect and the way forward for the city. “We’re going to share everything,” said Hayes.

The plant was designed by SunChemical when it was built in the 1990s but financed by the city, who still owes a debt service on it. Continuing to pay for it, after losing such a large customer is a concern of officials.

Wurtland currently contracts with Veolia to operate the waste treatment plant but that relationship is uncertain too.  It’s a relationship the city has been very pleased with, Hayes noted, praising its current operator John Haskins several times throughout the meeting.

That relationship could change though. “We just don’t know,” Hayes said.

SunChemical officials have informed the city that cleanup will take 4 to 6 weeks and that there would continue to be a water flow from that facility during that time.  After that, officials expect to see a significant drop in volume and type of sewage.

In theory, they expect lower operating costs including those for electric, chemicals and staffing. Instead of a massive volume of industrial waste, the plant will receive mostly residential sewage.

“Everything will change,” said Haskins, explaining different chemicals will be needed, how often its sludge needs pressed and removed will change and the type of “bugs” it has will need modifying too.

“You are going to be on the total opposite end for domestic sewage,” said Haskins. “Now until we see some numbers without PCI’s discharges,” he said, exactly what needs adjusting and by how much is unknown.

Greenup city officials along with county officials are also waiting anxiously to see how the closure will affect the water plant.  After more than five years of discussing a regional sewer project, Greenup finally signed on late last year to have its waste water piped to Wurtland for treatment 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 ad is being paid for using Kentucky Infrastructure Authority funds, secured years ago for the project.  Eventually, sewer lines are expected to be extended into Lloyd and other unincorporated parts of the county.

Hayes and Wurtland officials believe this will be key to making the massive water treatment plant continue to be viable.  “We didn’t ask you to come aboard to make money,” Hayes stressed. “We need you and you need us.”

Greenup’s own sewer plant is aging and needs replacing or shuttering, hence the move to join Wurtland.

City officials, including Wurtland’s commissioner of water and sewer Tony Smith, also discussed the option of attracting additional septic haulers and other sewage sources to generate revenue and material for the plant.

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