Op-Ed

Water utility serves this region well

Judges surveyed the finalists at the 2017 Kentucky American Water Science Fair.
Judges surveyed the finalists at the 2017 Kentucky American Water Science Fair.

Communities benefit from a well-run water utility that provides reliable, quality service. Kentucky American Water does just that, and then some.

For this reason, we, as long-time engaged citizens of Central Kentucky and proud board members of Kentucky American, find the editorial board’s continued negative characterization of the water utility to be quite puzzling. We want to share the facts.

Kentucky American is committed to maintaining well-run systems to provide great service. The company is continually upgrading aging water mains as well as plants and other facilities. This year alone the company will complete approximately $20 million worth of such projects.

In 2010, Kentucky American completed a major project to secure much-needed additional water supply and treatment plant capacity for its Central Kentucky customers. It was truly a game changer for the region. Remember the water use restrictions that occurred before this plant was built?

Regulators and those in the industry understood the criticality of completing this project for our region’s economic development and quality of life. The company got it done on time and under budget. There have been no water use restrictions for customers since it came online, even during drought times.

The company’s commitment to excellence is also evident in the quality of water it provides to customers. It employs processes that go beyond what is required by water quality regulations and voluntarily participates in the national Partnership for Safe Water. The result is that the tap water it provides is among the best in the nation.

Regarding cost, Kentucky American adheres to a continuous improvement mindset to keep rates as low as possible. Employees are always seeking ways to perform more efficiently without sacrificing quality.

Just this year the company received two special recognitions for water quality optimization from a program administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and in July the company’s newest water treatment plant in Owen County received the award for operation excellence from the Kentucky/Tennessee Section of the American Water Works Association.

The business decision made a few years ago to end city sewer, landfill user and stormwater fee billing services — which was referenced in the editorial — was one we supported.

When the agreement to do third-party billing via water bills was made in the early 1990s it may have made sense but as these non-water charges became an increasingly larger component of the water bill, staff found the practice increasingly confusing for customers.

This was coupled with the fact that the company was moving to an upgraded billing system and the additional billing functionality would have added cost to the project. It was a good decision, and water company staff worked with the city to assist with a smooth transition.

Kentucky American serves approximately half a million people in portions of 12 counties with about 140 employees, combined with the expertise of its parent company, American Water.

In April, several of these employees represented the company as it received a Best Place to Work in Kentucky award — for the fourth year in a row.

Employees not only work hard to provide a critical service to communities large and small, but also volunteer on boards, at events, in schools and on special projects. The company supports nonprofit organizations, grant programs, scholarships, science fairs, green initiatives and water festivals, to name a few. Its Hydration Station can be seen at outdoor events nearly every weekend in the summer, and the water-bottle refilling stations it has sponsored are popping up in more and more locations.

We welcome others to take a closer look at how Kentucky American Water works with the communities it serves. We believe they will find a great story that keeps getting better.

Pat Freibert, Wayne Martin and Bill Sisson are board members of Kentucky American Water.

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