The challenges in meeting day-to-day water service for communities in Kentucky were discussed during first meeting of the Public Water and Wastewater System Infrastructure Task Force.
State Division of Water Director Pete Goodman said three major issues facing communities struggling with water service are aging infrastructure, deferred maintenance, and insufficient planning.
When water service interruptions occur consistently, Goodman said the risk of losing an entire community becomes real. “We’re in a situation in some communities where the existence of that community is at play and that’s not unique to Kentucky,” said Goodman.
Martin County is one area of the state which has struggled to keep up with water delivery. Sen. Phillip Wheeler represents the southeastern Kentucky community. “The people have been squeezed pretty far to the point that the people that have jobs are paying about as much as they can pay in many circumstances,” explained Wheeler.
Cabinet Deputy Secretary Bruce Scott says big jumps in monthly water bills can cause “rate shock.” He said straight grants are hard to find, but financial assistance can come through the Appalachian Regional Commission, rural development loans, coal severance monies, and tobacco settlement funding.
Energy and Environment Cabinet officials said the statewide water system needs about $16 billion. Scott said the establishment of a designated state fund to use in leveraging federal dollars is another option. But Scott said that often brings with it taxation questions which can be controversial.
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