Fayette County is currently working on improvements to the Lakewood Hills area water system — creating a new public water system that would provide water to the businesses and residences along State Route 22 to Staunton Jasper Road, then down Staunton Jasper Road to the homes in the Lakewood Hills area.
According to county engineer Steve Luebbe, this new system would be owned and operated by the county.
He explained that Lakewood Hills is an unincorporated subdivision of about 65 homes located just off US Route 22, about three miles west of the corporation line of Washington Court House. There are an additional 15 homes in the area that are not part of the development.
Along US 22, there are an additional 15 homes, a low income apartment complex and several small businesses.
“(The new system) would purchase bulk water from the city and distribute (the water) to the people that elect to connect and become customers. It is similar to what we did with our Culpepper water system about 5 years ago, which serves the Miami Trace campus and the surrounding subdivisions. It is quite common for one system to purchase water from another, rather than have its own water supply, which is very costly,” explained Luebbe via email.
The project began after area residents and the township went to the county last year and asked if there was anything that could be done for the community, according to Luebbe.
He wrote, “It appeared that individual wells in the area were failing due to insufficient recharge of the aquifer. We hired a consulting engineering firm to study the area. The bottom line from their report was that the aquifer was suspect, and that the long term viability of that many wells was not good. We then looked into the possibility of a new system for the area.”
Burgess and Niple was the consulting firm utilized for the project. The firm specializes in hydro-geology and is out of Columbus.
Plans and estimates for the project were then prepped and have continued into the new year as several of the residents experienced problems with their wells, including wells going dry, according to Luebbe and a report from the firm.
“The vast majority of the project will be paid with a loan through an (Environmental Protection Agency) EPA program. The favorable terms of the loan is what makes this project a possibility. Loan repayment will be through the rates charged to the users. Now we need to have enough users to make the project move forward — only a few will not generate the necessary funds to pay for the costs of constructing and operating a water system. Project costs are currently estimated at $1.3 million,” wrote Luebbe.
There was one other alternative looked at instead of the current system being prepped, but it was viewed as impractical.
According to the report from Luebbe, “the (alternative was) to create a stand-alone system that utilizes groundwater wells, treatment, storage and a distribution network. The negatives far outweigh the positives in this scenario. But tapping an already depleted aquifer, the high cost of water treatment, and issues surrounding the disposal of process wastewater make this a difficult option to pursue. High construction costs and operational costs would be a problem in itself, but the decision to tap the same aquifer that has already shown itself to be a problem could be labeled questionable at best. Detailed cost estimates for construction and operation were not calculated due to the fact that this was not viewed as a logical or viable alternative.”
The current plan was seen as more practical and beneficial, especially as “the County already operates two public water systems so the financial, operational, administrative and technical support is already in place to support this new system. A regionalization alternative is much more cost effective and operationally efficient.”
Luebbe wrote, “If all goes according to plan, we will advertise the project for bid in April, secure the loan at the end of June and begin construction in August. There are a few things that could impact the schedule, but that is our current timeline. Right now it all comes down to whether or not we have enough people that will commit to being a customer. Everyone that can be should have received letters outlining the project and the process for committing. If we do get enough (people wanting and willing to connect to the new system), we (will) move forward on our current path. If not, the project gets put on the shelf until such time that there are enough (connections) to make the project financially viable.”
Reach journalist Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355.