UPDATE: Records show 200 violations by private utility owners - WDRB 41 Louisville News

UPDATE: Records show 200 violations by private utility owners

Posted: Updated: Aug 25, 2015 06:17 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The trail of environmental violations tied to various utility companies associated with several members of the Cogan family is as long and winding as the creeks they're polluting. 

Days after WDRB exposed toxic sewage from the Hunters Hollow waste water treatment plant pumping into a Bullitt County creek, we discovered another failing sewer site in Hardin County -- Airview Utilities. 

"For many years, the smell was terrific," said Tommy Furlong, an Airview Estates resident. "I mean, you could smell it on the other side of the neighborhood."

Neighbors in Airview Estates long complained of the failing sewer site. Instead of a fix, they got about a 50 percent increase on their sewer bills. Airview Utilities convinced the Public Service Commission to approve the hike, saying it didn't have enough money to address the problems and customers were in default. 

At $41.36 Darlene Kennedy's sewer bill now doubles her water bill, and six months after the increase, problems clearly remain. 

The toxic waste flows from an unnamed stream in the woods, into a branch of Mill Creek and ultimately the Ohio River. 

"I would just like to see them maintain their property in the order it should be maintained," Kennedy said.  

Operating correctly has been a constant struggle for these utilities. WDRB obtained public records from the Kentucky Division of Water more than 200 violations on file in the last 10 years. 

According to the Secretary of State's office, Carroll, Martin and Chris own, operate or direct five private utility companies:  

  • Bullitt Utilities in Hunters Hollow; 
  • Farmdale Utilities in Frankfort; 
  • Coolbrook Utilities, in Frankfort;
  • Brocklyn Utilities in Richmond; 
  • Airview Utilities in Elizabethtown.

The companies work in a tangled web with several family parts.

Some of the utility companies are in Carroll Cogan's name, and due to illness, he has given power of attorney to his son Chris who is living in Florida.

Others -- like the Airview site -- rest with brother Martin Cogan.

Larry Smither runs the day-to-day business for their utilities through a company Martin Cogan sold him in 2012: Covered Bridge Utilities. 

Airview Utility receipts show Martin Cogan and Larry Smither billed themselves for years by hiring Covered Bridge Utilities for repairs and serving as owners or managers in both companies. WDRB obtained a stack of invoices totaling more than  $30,000 for 2011 and 2012 specifically for Airview Utilities, yet the dumping of toxic waste water continues. 

"You really don't know who to go to, because if the state inspects it and lets it pass, who are you going to complain to?" Furlong asked. 

Which begs the question: Why hasn't the state taken more action? The records tell a story of gross neglect and environmental violations that lawmakers consider criminal. 

"Lock them up," said Senator Dan Seum, Minority Caucus Chair. "Put somebody in jail. I bet it gets cleaned up then."

The records pile up: More than 200 violations citing everything from off-the-charts E. coli levels to sewage treatment plants rusting, overgrown and not maintained -- even failures to report hazardous spills into public waters.

"I feel like I've been beating my head against a concrete wall for the last 14 months," said Hunters Hollow Mayor Linda Parker.

The Secretary of the Kentucky Energy and Environmental Cabinet will not go on camera with WDRB. Neither will Division of Water enforcement officials. All we've been told by spokespersons is that they're working to address the problem. 

More than 200 violations from five different companies in just 10 years: It doesn't add up, because no one can tell us why the utilities still have permits.

INVESTIGATION: Toxic sewage pours into Bullitt County water for more than a year 

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