HUSTONVILLE — Efforts are moving forward to bring sewer service to the U.S. 127 corridor south of Junction City.
By providing sewer to homes in and near the Moreland and Hustonville communities, water quality in the Dix River watershed will hopefully be greatly improved, said Bill Payne with the Lincoln County Sanitation District.
Payne told Hustonville City Council members last week that officials have been working for more than a decade to try and improve water quality in the area.
The Environmental Protection Agency first declared the Dix River and its major tributaries to be "impaired watersheds" in 1998. Since then, research has shown high levels of pathogens, particularlyE. coli, in the watershed area, Payne said.
Initially, researchers believed the pollution was coming from cattle that had access to bodies of water like creeks. But around 2005 or 2006, a new form of DNA-based testing allowed researchers to figure out that as much as 75 to 80 percent of the E. coli in the water came from human sources, Payne said.
Contamination was so high in some areas that pathogen levels were actually higher than usual levels seen in raw sewage, Payne added.
A pair of environmental studies done after this discovery both concluded the water quality could be improved by installing sanitary sewers in the area.
While a completed sewer system may be a long way off, there could be many different benefits. Payne said water from the Dix River watershed area runs into Herrington Lake, which is a main source of potable water for the area.
"It's a pretty short circuit," he said. "If we can improve the water that flows into the lake, we almost certainly will improve the water quality coming out of the lake."
Payne said having a sewer system in place also makes the U.S. 127 corridor more attractive to new businesses.
"Without sanitary sewers, the economic development folks have a hard time pressing their case," he said.
Hustonville Mayor Marc Spivey said his city could stand to benefit greatly from jobs made available during construction of a sewer system and if new businesses locate in the area.
Payne said the sanitation district, which formed a little over a year ago, has as its main priority providing a sanitary sewer system between Junction City and Hustonville.
An agreement has been worked out with Danville to treat sewage at "a very reasonable price" if a system can put in place to transport the sewage to a treatment station north of Junction City.
Engineers are currently busy designing a sewer system for the area, while the sanitation district searches for grants and other sources of funding, Payne said.
The sanitation district hopes to hear back this fall about a Community Development Block Grant that could fund a portion of the cost.
Engineers have recommended completing the sewer system in three or four phases. Payne said the first phase might run from Junction City to McCormack Church Road.
"We would like to get ... to Hustonville to complete the project as soon as possible," he said.
Area resident Josh Douglas listened to Payne present to the Hustonville City Council and said he's been rooting for a sewer system for many years.
"I appreciate you guys and I would love to have sewer. I have property here and property in Moreland and I would love to have sewer tomorrow," he said. "You could really expand down here. Like the mayor said, it'll bring jobs to Hustonville."
Judge-Executive Jim Adams said finding funds to make the sewer a reality is a big hurdle because the county wants to make this project as cost-effective as possible.
While the water quality issues at hand might make the county more likely to receive some funding, other types of funding may not be available.
The median income of area residents is just barely high enough to preclude the area from being classified as "distressed," which would mean more funding would be available, Adams said.
Adams said much of the money that might have been available for this type of project in the past is disappearing as society grows less and less fond of "earmarks."
"All these type projects are what people have referred to as earmarks," he said. "And as you know, that's going away."
Payne acknowledged funding is going to be difficult, but not impossible.
"I guess there's a reason that there's no for-profit sewer companies," he said.