LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The owners of a problem-plagued Hardin County utility company gave the state a grave warning.

Leaders of Airview Utilities told regulators Wednesday about concerns of another sewer plant collapse.

Larry Smither also operated the Hunters Hollow sewage treatment facility in Bullitt County that dumped millions of gallons of raw waste into a public creek in 2014. Wednesday he tried to convince Kentucky's public service commission to allow him to abandon his Hardin County wastewater treatment plant.

"We are losing money constantly," Smither testified before the PSC. "The plant is old ... It needs to be taken off-line and connected to a regional sewer system, or we could have another failure on our hands like Bullitt Utilities." 

Airview Utilities co-owner Martin Cogan agreed. 

"Things are falling apart all the time," Cogan said. "Pipes are rusting out. Blowers are falling apart."

The owner of Bullitt Utilities is Cogan's father. 

A WDRB investigation found the Hardin County sewage system in a constant state of disrepair, dumping black sludge into a nearby creek racking up hundreds of environmental violations over the course of a decade.

PSC Vice Chairman Robert Cicero questioned Airview's fiances, asking why there's no money for maintenance and repair when the company jacked up customers' bills last year for that exact reason. Cicero said, "I'm not convinced you're spending the money where it needs to be spent." He was particularly concerned about administrative and legal costs tied to the sewer system that only serves Airview Estates.  Smither conceded, "Have we made mistakes? Perhaps. But we do the best we can."

Smither said the wastewater treatment system was built in 1967 and was only meant to last around 25 years. Airview Utilities purchased it in 2005.

The 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. Smither estimated those repairs at $165,000. Cogan said a new facility would cost around $750,000. 

Together, Cogan and Smither own five private utility companies together. Kentucky Division of Water officials said none of them are in particularly good standing.

The owners said part of the problem at Airview Utilies is a number of the customers are delinquent on payments. Unlike many other sewage companies Airview Utilities bills are collected separate from a resident's water bill. Cogan said the subdivision of more than 200 homes is, "transient," and many renters come and go without payment. 

The Attorney General's office questioned whether Airview's customers were not paying because of poor service. 

After the hearing Martin Cogan agreed on camera to an interview with WDRB's Gilbert Corsey but the two owners rushed from the Frankfort office without answering anything. 

Corsey asked whether they planned to abandon all of their facilities and if they had anything to say to customers?" 

"No Comment," replied Smither, while Cogan rushed to a BMW and sped drove away. 

If the Public Service Commission allows Airview Utilities to abandon its Hardin County sewage treatment system another provider would have to be appointed to take over the system. The city of Elizabethtown expressed interest but leaders feared the cost of a fix or hooking Airview Estates customers into city sewage lines would fall to taxpayers.

A decision is expected before the end of the year.

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