PSC issues harsh orders for Magoffin Water

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The Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) ordered Magoffin County Water District on December 1 to finish projects that would prevent a recurrence of drought situations that plagued the area in the fall of 2008.

Magoffin Water has until January 14 to finish the project that will tie Magoffin in to the city of Paintsville for an emergency water source, as well as come up with drought mitigation plans and finish contracts with Paintsville for the tie in.

According to the news release from the PSC, “The PSC found that Magoffin Water lacks a sufficient water supply to deal with a drought or heavy water usage and that the district’s commissioners have not filled their statutory duty to provide their customers with adequate service. The PSC put the district’s commissioners on notice that they could be removed if service is inadequate in the future.”

Magoffin Water serves close to 3,500 customers and receives its total water supply from Salyersville Water Works currently, which depends solely on the Licking River. During the severe drought of 2008, Magoffin and Salyersville Water did not have enough adequate water and had to depend on donations and water restrictions.

By request of Magoffin County Judge Executive Dr. Charles Hardin and Salyersville Mayor Stanley Howard, Governor Steve Beshear declared Magoffin in a state of emergency on October 9, 2008, according to the PSC, “stating that the water shortage was a threat to public health and safety and declaring a need to prevent future shortages by developing new sources of supply.”

The declaration spurred an investigation by the PSC, which resulted in orders for Magoffin Water to take the necessary steps to obtain water from Paintsville and Morgan County Water.

A pipeline was set in 2007 with a $900,000 state appropriation intended for the connection to Paintsville, but the project was halted just 48 feet short of completion.

According to the PSC, Magoffin Water spent the leftover funds from the project for other projects after telling the state officials the project was completed.

According to the order from the PSC, Eddie Brown, a civil engineer with Kenvirons, was Magoffin District’s project engineer for the Paintsville Interconnection testified he was instructed to eliminate the final 48 feet of the eight-mile, eight-inch pipeline, which was approximately $4,000 away from the project’s completion.

The 48 feet of the project was removed in the construction contract with Music as an “adjustment of quantities,” which was never reflected in a change order. Brown submitted his 100 percent completion of the contract, which meant that the contract was finished, not the actual project.

Jim Hoskins, Superintendent of the Magoffin County Water District, said the project is now done with the exception of the installation of the master meter. The line needs to be filled, treated, flushed and tested, as well.

“They had to rule on it and I’m going to do what they told me to keep them happy,” Hoskins said.

The lines from Morgan and Floyd counties are already filled and tested, with water flowing through them daily, Hoskins said.

The Floyd line serves the same area of Magoffin the Johnson County line will serve, which is why the project is not finished, Hoskins said.

Hoskins said they never had a reason to fill the line from Paintsville when a line already exists for those active customers.

PSC spokesman Andrew Melnykovych said they will give Magoffin until the middle of January to demonstrate they have made that line functional so it can be used immediately in an emergency situation.

Melnykovych said the order was issued to make sure the situation that occurred in 2008 does not happen again, as well as make the water district take notice that their actions were not acceptable.

“Once they have complied, that will satisfy the terms and conditions of the order,” Melnykovych said.

“Our main interest is to assure the water supply is adequate and we’re willing to work with the water district to ensure that’s the case,” Melnykovych said.

Judge Executive Dr. Charles Hardin, who is responsible for appointing the water commissioners, said, “The current board has been working very diligently toward making significant improvements.”

Judge Hardin told the Lexington Herald-Leader that “he and the water commissioners looked forward to a meeting with the PSC to bring them up to speed.”

Water District Chairperson Randall Hardin said, “Upon the situation deemed emergencies in the future, we have the means of accessing these utilities [Floyd, Johnson and Morgan] utilities as a means to provide water for the customers of the Magoffin County Water District.”

The Magoffin County Water District Commissioners are Randall Hardin, Randy Salyer, Millow D. McCarty, Chester Howard and Kenneth Auxier.

According to the PSC, the arrangements with Paintsville, Prestonsburg and Morgan County Water may not even be able to supply enough water during a severe drought and it directed Magoffin County to attempt to obtain additional backup supply sources.