Work to expand Lexington's most troublesome sanitary sewer pump station will begin in the spring, city officials announced Monday.
In addition to expanding the South Elkhorn pump station on Bowman's Mill Road, the project includes constructing a new main sewer line that will take sewage directly to the West Hickman Wastewater Treatment Plant near Ash Grove Road in Jessamine County.
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The $18 million project will be partially funded by a $1.18 million federal budget earmark by U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Versailles.
“If anybody wants to criticize this one (earmark), let them have at it,” Chandler said. “This is something that I think benefits the people of our county, of our region and I am very proud to have the opportunity to assist in getting the federal government involved in helping the everyday lives of our citizens.”
Providing the proper infrastructure “is what government's about and what government has to do to serve their people,” Chandler said. “This has been a serious pollution problem in Fayette County and in the region, and it's something that very desperately needs to be fixed.”
During a December 2007 rain, Lexington got less than 4 inches of rain spread over six days, but it caused an estimated 16 million gallons of sewage to overflow manholes and pump stations. That sewage eventually found its way into yards, basements, streets and parks on its way to the county's creeks and streams.
Nearly 6 million gallons, about 38 percent of the total amount that overflowed, was released from the South Elkhorn pump station.
Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry said that cleaning up the environment is the city's main priority during his administration.
“Unfortunately, Urban County Government has been one of the biggest polluters in our community for too long a time,” Newberry said. “South Elkhorn station has been the site of more overflows of raw sewage than any other overflow site in our community. We just simply have had insufficient capacity to handle the flow during our wet weather periods.”
The South Elkhorn station, which serves Fayette County as well as parts of Jessamine County, will be expanded to handle about 14,000 gallons of sewage a minute, up from about 8,000 gallons.
Seven miles of pipe will be laid to connect the pump station with the West Hickman treatment plant. Currently, sewage from the pump station runs through the Waveland and Veterans Park area on its way to the West Hickman plant. Construction on the new sewer line, which will predominantly run through northern Jessamine County, will begin in early 2009.
The South Elkhorn project will be completed by the end of August 2010.
The South Elkhorn station isn't the only pump station that will be expanded for additional capacity.
Work on the new North Elkhorn pump station on Elkhorn Road and a new sewer line to the Town Branch Wastewater Treatment Plant will be completed in late 2009.
Construction on the new North Elkhorn station began in 2007. The new station, which can handle more than 13,000 gallons of sewage per minute, is being constructed next to the current one, which handles more than 4,000 gallons per minute.
The new sewer line to the Town Branch plant on Lisle Industrial Avenue began this past spring.
Work on the North and South Elkhorn pump stations is part of the city's settlement agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency over violations of the Clean Water Act.
Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Karl Forester rejected the civil penalty portion of the agreement. Forester said the $425,000 penalty was too high and that more of that money should be spent on work required by the consent decree reached in February.
Much of the work stipulated in the consent decree will be paid for from the city's recent sanitary sewer user fee increase.
On May 1, the sanitary sewer user fee increased by 48 percent. Next year, it will go up an additional 35 percent.
Despite the legal setback, the city will move forward with the sewer projects, Newberry said.
“Regardless of how long our legal proceedings may take, we don't intend for those delays to delay our progress towards improving our environment,” Newberry said.