Fayette County

Residents learn sewer project's effects on their Lexington neighborhoods

Residents in Lexington's East Lake and Hunters Point areas learned Monday night about the sanitary sewer project that will begin this summer in their neighborhoods. And they learned from city water-quality engineers why it's necessary.

The East Lake sewer improvement project will replace almost 2,000 linear feet of 12-inch sanitary sewer pipe with 18- to 21-inch pipe. Construction is scheduled to start in August and be finished in December.

Vernon Azevedo, manager of the city remedial measures program, told the small group of people who attended the meeting at St. Luke United Methodist Church that in 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Kentucky Division of Water in Frankfort filed a lawsuit against Lexington for violating the federal Clean Water Act.

When it rains, the city's outdated sanitary sewer lines get overloaded. Sewage backs up in people's basements and spews out of manholes, Azevedo said. That sewage then pollutes area lakes and streams.

The city and EPA signed a legal agreement, called a consent decree, that requires Lexington to make improvements to its sanitary and storm water sewer lines.

The cost of designing and constructing new sewers to bring Lexington in compliance with the Clean Water Act, passed in 1972, will be an estimated $600 million, Azevedo said.

The East Lake project is one of 82 scheduled throughout the city during the next 11 years or so to eliminate sanitary sewer overflow and improve storm sewers. The deadline for completing the entire list is 2024.

If that schedule is not met, the city will pay a stiff fine for every day it is late, he said.

The East Lake sanitary sewer project will cost $554,000. Four other sewer projects also will start this summer: the Bob o' Link project to replace 6,000 feet of sewer line; and Ecton Park, Green Acres and Century Hills projects, each of which will replace 2,000 feet.

The East Lake line will go under a gravel road owned by Kentucky American Water that runs along a portion of the city reservoir. The reservoir is across Richmond Road from Jacobson Park.

Asked whether the project would be disruptive, Azevedo didn't pull any punches. "Yes, it will be disruptive," he said. "There will be noise, dust and heavy-duty construction equipment out there. We're talking about digging up the old line and replacing with a line buried 8 to 10 feet underground." But, he added, the inconvenience "won't last long."

Suzanne Bhatt, who lives on Rain Court, was concerned about a row of old trees along the gravel road where bald eagles and osprey nest. "We see every kind of warbler; a great blue heron lives out there. Most recently we saw two wild turkeys," she said.

Azevedo said three trees would have to be cut down. After the line is laid, the site will be seeded and covered with straw.

After the meeting, Betty Wegner said that when she saw flags being stuck along the Kentucky American gravel road behind her house, she didn't know what was happening. "Now we understand. It is fine," she said.

Bob Kennedy, president of East Lake Neighborhood Association, said a neighborhood meeting was planned for May 1 to tell neighbors who did not attend Monday's meeting. "Hopefully, I can say something intelligent about this and answer people's questions," he said. The meeting will be at the Eagle Creek Branch of the Lexington Public Library.