Bullitt Utilities allowed to leave failing sewer, new operator a - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Bullitt Utilities allowed to leave failing sewer, new operator appointed to clean toxic mess

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- As WDRB has reported, neighbors in Hunters Hollow are dealing with an ongoing spill at a toxic sewer site. Today, a judge signed off on a deal that allows the owner of the site -- Bullitt Utilities -- to walk away from its mess.

The residents of Hunters Hollow are frustrated by failure.

"I feel like I've been beating my head against a concrete wall," said Linda Parker, mayor of Hunters Hollow.

"I believe it's causing people to get sick around here," said Curt Rexroat, a resident of Hunters Hollow. 

For 18 months, Hunters Hollow neighbors have lived with a leaking sewer in their community: 18 months of toxic, raw, waste dumping directly into a creek that flows into the Salt River. 

"That situation would have just continued on a downward spiral," said Bullitt County Attorney John Woolridge.

Wednesday morning in Frankfort, the 18-month saga changed in about 18 minutes.

Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate signed off on the order to allow Bullitt County's Sanitation District to take over the Hunters Hollow wastewater site from its private owner. A lawyer for Bullitt Utilities field documents to abandon the site in August after WDRB exposed its problems. The Kentucky Public Service Commission approved the request.

"It's very important and it's the beginning point for things to get better instead of worse," said Woolridge.

This new team is only appointed for a year. In that time they're tasked with making necessary improvements to fix Hunters Hollow and their own problems. 

"We have a lot of plants similar to this (Hunters Hollow) that haven't failed yet," Woolridge said.

It will come down to the money. Despite abandoning its treatment plant, Bullitt Utilities still has a pending request before Kentucky's Public Service Commission to raise customers bills 120-percent. 

The company wants to recover every dollar it lost after the Hunters Hollow site collapsed in March 2014. The new team must decide whether to alter the request to add its cost for taking over the site. 

"Is the state really going to let this company walk away from the toxic site and then pass its cost onto customers?" WDRB's Gilbert Corsey asked. 

"Again, the question is what's the reasonable cost to pass onto customers. Because under utility statues utilities are entitled to recover reasonable costs," said Andrew Melnykovych, spokesperson for the Kentucky Public Service Commission. 

WDRB cameras returned to Hunters Hollow Wednesday one month after our initial report. Toxic water is no longer pouring into the creek, but you can still see a thick layer of black sludge matting the ground. The new operator, Bullitt Sanitation, says it will have the mess cleaned up within 30 days, and the Hunters Hollow site fully operational by the end of the year 

Questions remain, but the hope for neighbors in Hunters Hollow is that next 18 months will be better than the last. 

"It's absolutely horrible," said Parker.

Bullitt Utilities owes more than $3 million to companies that responded after the failure at Hunters Hollow. One creditor tried to intervene in today's hearing hoping to get paid. The judge is considering that request. 

Copyright 2015 by WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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