Sewer infrastructure and access to clean and safe water is a major issue of concern in Letcher County and the local area. Expanses of the county do not have city water or public sewer access. With this being the case, people rely on private package plants, single home septic systems, and straight piping for waste water disposal. Overtime, single home septic systems often become compromised, discharging waste into the surrounding area. Of significant concern is the use of straight pipes, which pump untreated waste directly from homes into waterways.
Untreated wastewater is a major public health and environmental concern as waterborne disease can spread by way of bacteria and viruses. Along with this, untreated wastewater causes oxygen depletion in water bodies, harming aquatic life and making water unsafe for humans to come in contact with. In terms of drinking water, wastewater contamination can impair localized well water.
In response to these pressing issues surrounding wastewater treatment, the Letcher County Water and Sewer District formed and since 2003, has provided close to 2,600 residents with potable water service. The development of a water district was a major feat and is promising in terms of the future of water infrastructure and treatment. Of even greater acclaim is the recent initiation of sewer extension projects.
Residents living outside of the Whitesburg City limits have historically been underserved. The Craft’s Colley Sanitary Sewer Extension, Dry Fork Addition and Route 15 projects serve a major need and will ultimately, reduce the number of failing septic systems and straight pipes. This will result in improved water quality for years to come.
These projects are a cooperative agreement between the Letcher County Fiscal Court and the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Alpha Reclamation is the contractor for these projects. The Crafts Colley, Dry Fork and Route 15 extension projects were initiated in October of 2015. Construction has been ongoing and the completion is slated for early spring of this year.
Funding for the projects is 75% federal. The Letcher County Fiscal Court is the sponsor for the remaining funding, all of which is non-federal. With these sewer extension projects, residential connection is free, saving each home several thousand dollars. Providing sewer service at an affordable rate to new customers is a major accomplishment in terms of public health and stewardship of local waterways.
With the Crafts Colley project, there are roughly 36 homes and around 200 customers being served. Residential low pressure grinder pumps are being installed at low points on residential property where wastewater is then grinded and pumped to the nearest gravity sewer which is the Walmart Lift Station. 40,000 linear feet of water line are being installed in the Crafts Colley extension.
The Dry Fork project services 42 homes. These residents live along Kentucky Route 3401 and 588. Similar to the Crafts Colley project, there are residential low pressure grinder pumps and about 20,000 linear feet of water line. The water treatment collection system for this portion is to connect to the Parkway Inn lift station which is being rehabilitated as part of the project. Like Crafts Colley, the wastewater collected will be treated at the Whitesburg treatment plant.
Overall, there are projected to be about 93 homes served with the Crafts Colley, Dry Fork and Route 15 sewer additions. This is a major milestone in terms of Letcher County water infrastructure. Hopefully, the success and celebration of these sewer additions will encourage further expansion of water and sewer throughout Letcher County.