Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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January 13, 2014

Water frustrations spill over

CATLETTSBURG — As many residents in Catlettsburg repeatedly check utility meters for signs of a revival, their faucets continued to run dry Monday as water woes remained unresolved.

Last week the Ashland Water Treatment Plant was prompted with the challenge of finding a leak that proved to be quite difficult to locate. The 27-foot Catlettsburg storage tank ran completely dry by the next day when it was finally located and repaired.

By Friday, the tank was slowly refilling, only reaching a shallow depth of one foot by afternoon. In the meantime, the low levels had hindered residents at higher elevations from getting the necessary water pressure to run tap water, and those close to the plant had only enough for a steady trickle.

But according to Wade Franklin, who lives with his 83-year-old mother in the England Hill District of Paddle Creek, he didn’t even have enough water to successfully flush a toilet.

Therefore, the fire chief sent his mother to stay with his sister in Greenup County and creatively used facilities at the England Hill Fire Department to keep up his hygiene and fill spare 5-gallon buckets for use at home.

With the first wave of water deficits hitting that night, stores found bottled water and plastic gallons of distilled H2O flying off the shelves as those in need grabbed necessary goods and those in fear of possibly losing water services nabbed the rest.

Once the main water storage tank started slowly refilling, Franklin’s sinks achieved a trickle of water that was eventually strong enough for him to take a dismal shower by Monday, but he said neighbors in the hollows on the hill above him are not so lucky.

“I can make do with what I have right now as long as I have enough to wash my dishes and flush the toilet. I’m just worried about them because they haven’t had anything for days,” he said.

In the heat of the water crisis, some businesses, like Waffle House off U.S. 23, were forced to close their doors, which are reliably open 24/7. Wendy’s, a popular lunch spot during the weekday, had an array of signs slapped onto doors and windows warning customers of the boil advisory causing them to be unable to serve soft drinks, lemonade and sweet tea. ... basically leaving them with the option of milk or Frosty’s.

Boyd County Judge-Executive Bud Stevens jumped to the aid of government employees in his area and inmates during the water troubles Friday and Monday by approving the purchase of up to $1,500 of bottled water from Walmart and Modern Foods and delivering them to the David C. Hagerman Justice Center, fiscal courthouse and to the prison.

Deputy Clerk Vera Connaroe said Stevens gave each office a case of water and made sure the water fountains were all draped in plastic bags so neither residents or employees accidentally drank the contaminated water.

He said it was apparent the water was being put to good use Friday when he came back Monday and realized the inmates had already finished off their supply.

“We’ll be OK now since we still have about 50 cases left. But we wanted to make sure there was enough water for the inmates since they can’t just go out and get it for themselves,” he said.

But Stevens seemed cautiously optimistic the return of water services was just around the corner, saying, “All we have to do now is just wait for Ashland to turn our water back on and that’ll get us rolling.”

But other residents in Catlettsburg don’t have such a sunny disposition.

Calls of complaints and anxiety have flooded the courthouse, with most of them coming into the Emergency Management office.

Amber Holly, deputy director, said she had at least 30 calls by 2 p.m. Monday, most of which were people asking her questions she simply could not answer.

“A lot of people are frustrated,” she said.

She explained most callers believe the water troubles are caused by the West Virginia chemical spill, which is not true.

“But you know how it is, it's easier to believe what someone reads in a post on Facebook than what you can read in the paper,” she said. “One person said they were going to call the governor.”

But sometimes callers have legitimate concerns rather than angry words, like where they can get water they need while they wait on services to turn back on.

Holly said while she truly wants to be able to help everyone in need during this time, concerns such as when the water can be expected to return, what the exact problem is and how it’s being handled are questions for the water treatment plant handling the water line repairs.

For those in need of water, Director of Engineering and Utilities Ryan Eastwood said free water is available at the water plant to anyone in the community who will bring their own refillable containers to the facilities at 4040 Winchester Ave.

LANA BELLAMY can be reached at

lbellamy@dailyindependent.com or

(606) 326-2653.

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Kentucky first lady Jane Beshear presents Morehead Mayor Larry Perkins with a plaque designating Morehead as a Trail Town, only the third city in the state to receive the honor. LANA BELLAMY / The Independent

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