Hardin County site latest sewage plant troubled operator hopes t - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Hardin County site latest sewage plant troubled operator hopes to abandon

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A constant pool of black sewage has been spewing into a public creek, and sadly, it's nothing new. One year after our investigation, we've found the same operator trying to abandon yet another failing sewage plant.

At age 73, Darlene Kennedy has started making way for the next phase of her life, packing up her Hardin County home and planning to move in with her son in Louisville.

But her plans have come to a halt.

"I already called my real estate man and told him to put it on hold for right now," she said.

The problem flows from her faucet, deep underground and out into the woods about a block from her Hickory Hill drive home. 

"Who wants to buy a house that's going to be disconnected from a sewer system?" she asked.

Kennedy is one of more than 200 neighbors in Airview Estates who received a notice that Airview Utilities is trying to abandon its failing sewage system.

"It's mind-boggling to me," she said. "I thought, surely to goodness, why would they do that to us out here?"

A WDRB investigation uncovered the utility in a constant state of disrepair dating back more than a decade, with hundred of violations, including toxic levels of E. coli contamination flowing -- ultimately -- to the Ohio River.

"I feel like they've taken the money to feather their own pockets and done nothing to help us out," said neighbor Lesa Ammons."Now that they're in this situation, they can just walk away. That shouldn't be legal."

Airview Utilities doubled customers' bills last year, yet in recent state filings, says it can't afford needed maintenance and repair. The 40-year-old sewage system needs a new chlorine contact tank, dechlorination equipment, a new flow-meter and the tertiary lagoon needs to be cleaned according to records from Kentucky's Public Service Commission. 

It's very familiar to the collapsed sewage plant abandoned in Bullitt County last year. Airview Utilities is affiliated with the same owners. Airview Utilities is owned by Martin Cogan and Larry Smither. Martin Cogan is the son of Carroll Cogan who owns the troubled Bullitt Utilities. Smither also owns Covered Bridge Utilities which operated both sewer systems. The state moved to suspend Smither's license at the end of 2015. The matter remains under appeal. 

The issues underscore a slow -- and at times -- non-existent response from state regulators to force cleanup on these smaller private utilities, as well as a glaring gap in the system that allows owners to walk away from the mess. 

"It does leave the burden on the backs of local taxpayers," said Elizabethtown City Attorney D. Dee Shaw.

If regulators approve the surrender, a neighboring utility must be appointed by the court to take over the failing system. The city of Elizabethtown estimates the cost at $1 million.

"It's unfair to those that live out there in that situation and it isn't getting any better," said Shaw. "It's just that we owe our first obligation to our citizens within this community."

People like Kennedy are waiting and watching to see what happens next.

"It's frustrating. I had plans, and now that this has come up, I guess those plans are just going to be put on hold," Kennedy said.

The Public Service Commission must grant Airview Utilities permission to abandon the plant. A hearing on the matter is set for next Wednesday in Frankfort.

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