Danville makes formal pitch to sell water

October 14, 2003|PHIL PENDLETON

LEXINGTON - In the event of a major emergency brought on by drought or breach of homeland security, water utilities in central Kentucky hope a grid of pipelines will be the answer to an otherwise devastating water shortage. And Danville made it official Monday that it wants Herrington Lake to be part of the solution.

The Bluegrass Water Supply Consortium held a day-long workshop in downtown Lexington to choose one of three alternates that will be the back-up supply of water to utilities in 15 counties, including Boyle, Garrard and Mercer, and to draw up guidelines for a water commission that will oversee the distribution of water on a wholesale basis.

"We ask that you leave a window open for the possibility of Danville being a supplier," said Dan Shoemaker of Tetra Tech, a company that has been working on improvements to the Danville water treatment plant for the past four years.


He said that from conversations with Kentucky Utilities, which owns Herrington Lake, a "substantial amount of water" could be made available. Kentucky Utilities could give Danville a definite answer within two to three weeks as to whether it could supply more water outside Boyle County, Shoemaker said.

For now though, the consortium, including Danville, believes a new water treatment plant near Frankfort on Pool 3 of the Kentucky River, supplemented by raw Ohio River water, is the best alternate source of water for the region. That alternate was unanimously chosen by members of the consortium Monday morning.

"Ninety-nine percent of the time, that would be enough water to meet the needs of the consortium," said consortium project manager George Rest.

Other options considered were constructing a new water treatment plant on the Ohio River near Warsaw and piping in treated water from the Louisville Water Co. Treated water from Louisville was the least expensive of the three alternates, but the treatment facility on Kentucky River Pool 3 ranked highest in terms of capacity and flexibility.

Danville City Commissioner Ryan Owens, the only elected official from Danville at the meeting, said he believes the consortium should go along with the Pool 3 treatment facility, but that Herrington Lake could be a supplier at a later date. Shoemaker agreed.

"They're at a pretty advanced stage with this Pool 3 plant," said Shoemaker. "We'll have our findings in a sufficient time that the selected alternate chosen here can be adjusted."

With Danville considering a new water treatment on the lake to increase the amount of treated water from five to a maximum of 20 million gallons per day, officials believe that selling water to the consortium could help them pay for the new plant.

"That's always an option," Owens said. "I'm sure that there would be some federal grants. We just have to look at all the options that's going to benefit our taxpayers."

Within the next several months, the consortium aims to form a regional water commission, which will be called the Bluegrass Water Supply Commission. The commission will be a legal entity, public corporation and agency with a function of enabling water utilities to develop and operate sources of drinking water supplies. Like other governing bodies, it could apply for grants and low-interest loans to establish treatment plants and the grid.

The commission will sell water wholesale only to water utilities; it won't be allowed to sell water to individual customers, said Ed Donahue with the Municipal and Financial Services Group. The final cost of water provided by the commission won't be known until there is a solid commitment from members of the commission. Currently letters of intent are going out to the 15 utilities in the consortium.

Each of the water utilities will pay for the supplemental water they would receive through the grid. Their annual fee will be about $450,000 per million gallons of water, said Rest. Kentucky American Water in Lexington has tentatively committed to buying 22 MGD, Winchester three MGD, Nicholasville one MGD, and Georgetown .225 MGD.

Lancaster officials believe that price may be unaffordable for them to commit.

"My concern is the cost," said councilwoman Donna Powell. "I really have doubts on whether Lancaster can afford to do this."

Powell said any cost paid by the city to be part of the commission and receive supplemental water would be passed on to customers. Powell has not given up hope that Lancaster could tap on. "It would be insurance for the future, but the cost will be the ultimate factor."

Rest told consortium members that the water commission should form either late this year or in early 2004, a master plan and facility plan could be done by 2005, and final design and construction of the water system could take place between 2006 and 2009. He said those dates may not be reached, though.

"Even that is pretty fast compared to history," he said.

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