Lawmakers took the Division of Water to task Thursday over a Virginia wastewater treatment plant spilling sewage into Kentucky’s waterways for several months. They say the neighbor’s passage of pollution into eastern Kentucky is unacceptable.
Rep. Jim Stewart, R-Flat Lick, asked Peter Goodmann, director of Division of Water, Energy and Environment Cabinet what had been done to resolve the spilled sewage during the Interim Joint Committee On Natural Resources and Environment Thursday at the Capitol Annex.
The Kentucky Division of Water was only notified in May that a Buchanan County Public Service Authority wastewater facility in Virginia had been discharging untreated wastewater directly into the Levisa Fork since early March.
The Kentucky DOW and the Kentucky Department for Public Health issued an advisory for swimmers in the Levisa Fork of Fishtrap Lake in Pike County from the Virginia state line at river mile 126.4 to river mile 114.8 — the headwaters of Fishtrap Lake — after finding high levels of E. coli in the river on June 12.
“Did we settle it with a fine or a handshake? What did we do?” Stewart asked. “I just know when the coal mines have a silt pond that breaks or something they put a levy on them. So I just assume we levy a fine on them (when) they dump that raw sewage on us.”
The advisory was lifted two weeks later, but according to Minority Floor Leader Sen. Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, the incident is indicative of neighboring Virginia’s poor practices along its shared border with Kentucky.
“There’s a moniker that some people refer to it as ‘Trashtrap’ because so much garbage comes in from Virginia into Kentucky,” Jones said. “It basically ruins Fishtrap Lake for any purpose of recreation or tourism development. It’s inexcusable that we have this type of sewage situation — whether it’s contaminated the lake with E. coli or other bacteria is irrelevant — because the public perception is that the lake is being contaminated and it’s unsafe to swim.”
Jones asked Goodmann when was the last time he had visited Fishtrap Lake in Pikeville and invited him to call his office and arrange a visit.
“It’s disgraceful that this problem went on as long as it did where raw sewage was coming into Pike County,” Jones said. “It’s not the only problem we’ve had.”
Jones said the owner of the marina on the lake was quoted in a local paper for losing business. People are reportedly afraid to swim in the water.
“My question is why has the Division of Water not taken some action to address this trash problem with Fishtrap,” Jones said. “The last time I was on the lake, it’s been a few years, there was so much trash in it you had to worry about taking your boat on it.”
Goodmann agreed he would arrange the visit, talk to his counterpart in Virginia and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to devise a strategy.
“In the 15 years I’ve been here, we’ve not been able to get anything done. Part of that is the Corps’ fault,” Jones said. “The Corps has taken the approach that the lake serves a flood-control purpose and not really a recreational or tourism purpose. It’s really appalling for someone to come in and see the condition of that lake.”
By Brad Bowman
The State Journal