November 1, 2012

London Utility Commission resolves violation

By Magen McCrarey
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — The Kentucky Division of Water deemed the London Utility Commission (LUC) to be in violation of their standards on Sept. 13 regarding an electrical failure at the LUC Mitchell Creek “A” Pump Station.  A letter regarding the incident was received by the Division of Water on Oct. 3 and future precautions are currently being taken to better protect Laurel County’s creeks and streams.

University of Louisville Research Associate Michael Croasdaile made the initial discovery of high amounts of E. coli bacteria in Mitchell Creek through a sensor downstream that is constantly measuring pH, dissolved oxygen and conductivity levels.  Croasdaile is using the sensor to assist the Cumberland Valley Resource Conservation and Development Council (RC&D) in a study to help make Sinking Creek and its headwaters a healthier watershed to the Rockcastle River.  Upon discovery, Croasdaile reported it to Division of Water Environmental Inspector Edgar Hayden.

“It’d be hard for anything living in there to survive,” Croasdaile said.

LUC maintenance reported an electrical failure at the relatively new Mitchell Creek Pump Station that was bypassing raw sewage into the creek.  LUC Superintendent Steve Baker wrote Hayden on Sept. 27, stating, “The failure was repaired within 30 minutes of discovering the problem.  However, LUC failed to report the bypass to the Division of Water.”

Sinking Creek is a critical habitat and home to the federally-listed endangered Cumberland Elktoe mussel.  Protecting the mussels are the reason for the RC&D clean-up and study of Sinking Creek.  

The oversight could have released an untold amount of sewage into the headwaters of a very fragile ecosystem for the aquatic wildlife of Sinking Creek.  The Mitchell Creek pump is one of 20 that are fed sewage from the Wastewater Treatment Plant for the City of London, which serves 3,193 residential, 958 commercial and eight industrial customers.

“This was an oversight that contradicts our standard procedure,” Baker stated in the letter to Hayden.

The LUC  took immediate measures after the violation that included a waste water treatment plant review.  Baker  stated  policy was emphasized to employees so the mistake will not happen again and every spill will always be reported regardless of how small.  Mission SCADA (System Control and Data Acquisition) equipment has already been installed on three of LUC’s most critical pump stations.

“If a failure occurs, we will be notified immediately,” Baker continued.  “We are confident that these measures will prevent this violation from occurring again.”

To report dumping or water contamination, contact Rob Miller at the Kentucky Division of Water at 606-330-2080.