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Rainfall adds to Marion water supply as local officials weigh potential water options

An electronic sign outside Marion Baptist Church says “Pray For Rain.”
Liam Niemeyer
Signs from churches and businesses around Marion ask the community to pray for rain or to conserve water.

Marion City Council members continue to weigh options for a temporary water supply to help relieve its ongoing water shortage – ranging from getting water from nearby utilities to using water in an abandoned mine within city limits.

Marion City Administrator Adam Ledford did have some good news at the Tuesday special meeting: recent rain storms had filled up the community’s back-up reservoir.

“City Lake, as of today, is spilling over the top,” Ledford said.

He said the Crittenden County community of less than 3,000 residents is still under a boil water advisory, meaning that residents are encouraged to use bottled water for drinking and cooking instead of tap water.

“With the fact that the lake is in an overflow status, we've been working today – quite a few of our teams have been focused on what things could possibly be done to move us off of the boil advisory,” Ledford said.

Even with the rainfall, the solutions on the table to temporarily supply the city with water in the months ahead are still being worked out by engineering firms.

Ledford presented the council with a proposal from Bell Engineering that would build an emergency water line to connect the Caldwell County Water District to the Crittenden-Livingston Water District, essentially providing the city with another water source.

The city had already been receiving some of their water supply from the Crittenden-Livingston Water District, but the nearby utility has had trouble at times maintaining the supply to the city because of water leaks.

Some city council members continued to push for considering the use of an abandoned fluorspar mine as a potential water source. Ledford told the council the costs of having an Illinois company pump stagnant water out of the Lucille Mine and to have the water source go through required testing could cost tens of thousands of dollars.

City Council Member Darrin Tabor said he still wanted to move forward with examining the option.

“I hate it if we have to spend $30,000 chasing a loose end, but we’ve spent a lot more than that doing the same thing,” Tabor said.

Included in the documents that Ledford provided to the council was an extensive report testing contaminants in the Lucille Mine water in 2013. An email dated July 28 from Alan Robinson – president of Somerset-based firm Eclipse Engineers – shows Robinson writing that the report details that the water contains high levels of fluoride, barium and a trace amount of arsenic.

“It is my opinion that although these results could improve by pumping out the old water from the mine, they are not likely to improve enough to make this an attractive source,” Robinson said.

Tabor and City Council Member Donnie Arflack both questioned whether the 2013 testing report was of the Lucille Mine water and claimed that the test could have been done at another well that was drilled in the past by the local car wash.

“I think this is the wrong sample,” Arflack said. “I think this came from the well we drilled back behind the car wash.”

In response to Arflack, Ledford said the only way the city could verify if the mine water was usable is through a full testing of the water for contaminants.

For the month of July, according to acting city spokesperson Danielle Duncan, more than 47,000 gallons of bottled water had been distributed to about 1,700 residents a week. Tanker trucks with the Kentucky National Guard and a local farm had also hauled more than 4 million gallons of water into the city’s remaining reservoir.

"Liam Niemeyer is a reporter for the Ohio Valley Resource covering agriculture and infrastructure in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia and also serves Assistant News Director at WKMS. He has reported for public radio stations across the country from Appalachia to Alaska, most recently as a reporter for WOUB Public Media in Athens, Ohio. He is a recent alumnus of Ohio University and enjoys playing tenor saxophone in various jazz groups."
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