Campaigner raises concerns about leachate with Somerset City Council | News
A community activist who spent several weeks speaking out against Mayor Alan Keck’s decision to accept landfill leachate at the City of Somerset sewage treatment plant, McCreary County resident Darlene Price, raised his concerns face-to-face with Keck and Somerset City Council on Monday night.
Price and his Truth or Politics podcast team released a two-part YouTube video last month called “Lake Cumberland: What really lies below.”
In that video, Price complained both about the state’s lack of testing requirements for certain chemicals in Kentucky’s waterways and about Somerset taking leachate that may contain those chemicals into a sewage treatment facility being repaired.
Its main concern is with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), also known as C-8.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says PFOA is a by-product of the production of chemicals used to make coatings and heat, oil, and grease resistant products.
The CDC says PFOA does not break down in the environment and people are most likely exposed to it by drinking contaminated water sources, although workers in the perfluorinated chemical industry can be exposed to it from greater amounts than the general population.
“The human health effects of exposure to low environmental levels of PFOA are unknown,” the CDC states. “PFOA can stay in the body for long periods of time. In laboratory animals given large amounts, PFOA can affect growth and development, reproduction and damage the liver.
In 2019, the Pitman Creek Wastewater Treatment Facility in Somerset began accepting leachate from four landfills in Kentucky and Tennessee that accept industrial waste — the type of waste containing C-8s, Price said.
The problem, she points out, is that the same treatment facility is currently upgrading its equipment as part of an $8 million project because it does not comply with state regulations regarding the amount of products like E. Coli and suspended solids that are discarded.
If these things go through the purification process, she told the council, how can they be sure that something smaller like the C-8s doesn’t go through?
Councilman John Ricky Minton asked Price that if the C-8s are so bad, why aren’t the EPA and the Kentucky Water Division doing anything about it?
He said he understood they were testing him, but Price replied, “They didn’t spit out a single test.”
“Don’t you think they would if something happened?” Minton asked.
“You hope,” Price said.
However, as Price said she found out through correspondence with Water Division officials, there are no standards in place to test it, and therefore the state is not testing.
“It’s my opinion based on my research: I think industry and money come first in the state of Kentucky, with the state water district and with this governor, more than public safety,” Price said.
She then turned her attention to the water treatment facility, noting that the town of Somerset has failed tests since 2016 for E. Coli and suspended solids, and despite an agreed order saying the town could be fined $25,000 per instance, Somerset did not receive a single fine.
The state fined last year, she said, but the city was given the opportunity to appeal, and within 24 hours of receiving Keck’s appeal letter, they rescinded it. the fine.
Keck said he and the city take Price’s concerns seriously, but noted that the landfills where the leachate comes from are the same ones Somerset’s municipal waste goes to – just like other municipal waste. These aren’t strictly industrial-only landfills, he said, calling them “normal landfills.”
“We’re not the only place in Kentucky taking leachate,” Keck said. “Madinsonville, Hopkinsville, London takes a bit, Louisville. That is why these systems are put in place. It’s going somewhere.
Keck also pointed out that the water treatment facility is not the only source of sewage that enters Pitman Creek or Sinking Creek, which empties into Pitman Creek.
“For context, and this is important to note too, you’re thinking, ‘What else is spilling at Sinking Creek?’ Any waste hauler. Anyone pumping septic tanks all over the county is probably dumping in Sinking Creek…The leachate is less than 10% of that volume. Once it gets to Pitman Creek, it’s less than 3 % of volume processed,” Keck said.
He also noted that unlike what goes into the city’s treatment plant, waste dumped directly into Sinking Creek is not treated.
The same goes for waste that is dumped directly from all the boats and barges that use the lake, Keck said.
“At the end of the day, for no amount of money in the world, we’re not going to put our citizens at risk,” he said, adding that the city will continue to make improvements to the treatment facility and to test its speed daily.
The sewage treatment plant repair project is expected to be completed in the summer of 2023.