Whitesburg's water plant issued notice of violation after oil spill

The Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection has issued a notice of violation at Whitesburg's water treatment plant for problems found during a diesel spill earlier this month into the North Fork of the Kentucky River upstream from the plant.

The notice, issued Friday, "specifies that there was a problem with proper operation of the Whitesburg plant, and actions that could have prevented passage of fuel through the plant were not taken," Division of Water spokeswoman Allison Fleck said.

Veolia Water operates the plant.

The notice says there was a problem with the operation of the plant's carbon feeder system, which was upgraded after a 2009 diesel spill damaged the plant.

The carbon feeder system adds carbon to raw water to remove trace dissolved hydrocarbons that affect taste and smell of tap water.

Last week, Veolia Water officials told the Herald-Leader the company operated the carbon feeder according to plan. The company said the plant was shut down at 8:42 a.m. Feb. 12, two minutes after receiving the first complaint of a diesel smell in a customer's tap water.

The plant was started up again at 9:40 a.m., along with the carbon feeder, said Matt Demo, Veolia spokesman. He said the carbon feeder is intended to run only part-time, when smell or taste is an issue. It is expensive to run constantly, he said.

Veolia said the plant was shut down again at 11:45 a.m. that Saturday, after the diesel slick was discovered on the North Fork of the Kentucky River. It was started again at 7:30 p.m., after a non-consumption advisory was issued to the public, Demo said, and the carbon feeder was "turned up" at the Division of Water's request at 7:50 p.m.

Flushing of lines and water testing continued for several days, and the no-contact order was lifted Feb. 15.

It was unclear Monday whether Friday's notice of violation would be accompanied by a fine.

The Whitesburg Water Works was ordered to "maintain and operate the activated carbon feeder during all times of raw water treatment until further notice from the Division of Water," the notice said. The plant has 14 days to submit an operation plan for the detection and response to any raw water contamination.

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