Town awarded millions in grants for sewer system

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Reporter - Jason Hibbs
Photojournalist - David Dycus

GRAND RIVERS, Ky. - Leaders in a tourist driven town just a few flushes away from turning newcomers away, got much needed help Tuesday.

Grand Rivers, Kentucky received millions in federal grants and a loan to build a brand new sewage treatment plant.  State leaders called it a 'belated Earth Day present' during a ceremony at the Green Turtle Bay Resort.

The United States Department of Agriculture presented Grand Rivers with a $6 million check, another million came from a Community Development block grant.  Commissioner Tony Wilder said he didn't want to talk politics, but reminded people this money came from federal appropriations, spending that's often criticized.

"The governor could not have made this decision without Congress appropriating federal funds through Housing and Urban Development, it's just plain and simple.  I'm not talking politics.  I'm talking facts," Wilder said.

$3.6 million out of the $7 million is a loan.

The city utilities manager says it's a 40 year loan with a 2.5-percent interest rate.  The city already started paying that loan.  That's why customers may have noticed a bigger sewer bill.

Keeping the current facility up and running hasn't been easy.

"We've made make-shift repairs all along, you see those 'C' clamps, that's holding them pieces together. You can't weld it, every time a welder strikes an arc it melts through it, it's so rusted," Deweese said.

The waste treatment process is complicated.  Workers say you have to keep the sewage separate, but right now, that's nearly impossible because they say there are holes in the interior walls.

Deweese said it often breaks down.

"Solids wash out of the plant and wind up going down through here and go into the river," Deweese said.

That's just up stream from a drinking water reservoir.

Tuesday,  the town got much needed help, to build a $7 million dollar plant.

Henson said it's just in time.

"It's a must and we were going to make it happen," Henson said.

Deweese said Grand Rivers will probably start accepting bids for the project in a few months, he'd like to see construction started by late summer,
and finished by the end of next year.

Previously leaders said it looked like Grand Rivers would be forced to pay several hundred thousand dollars they didn't have for environmental impact studies. Including a mussel survey and an archaeological survey.  The mussel survey originally spanned a three mile stretch of river but Deweese said the town's engineer convinced the E.P.A. to drastically reduce the survey area so that saved lots of money.  He said those surveys are complete and the town got an all clear.

As for the old sewage plant, Deweese said he's not sure how much it'll cost to decommission it.

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