UPDATE: PSC investigates Martin County Water District for third time

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UPDATE 4/12/16 @ 6:40 p.m.
MARTIN COUNTY, Ky. (WSAZ) -- The Kentucky Public Service Commission has opened an investigation into the operations and management of Martin County Water district.

Monday, the PSC cited longstanding concerns about the district, which they say have not been addressed or have resurfaced in recent years.

"In numerous inspections and investigations (at Martin County Water District) since the late 1990s, the (PSC) has found lingering problems of significantly high water loss, lack of performance of routine maintenance and testing, and failure to follow acceptable management practices,” the PSC said.

The order filed Monday cites the following problems:

  • Martin County Water’s loss rate has been in excess of 60 percent in recent years, which is more than four times what is normally permitted in Kentucky regulations. That means that six out of every 10 gallons the utility produces or purchases are unaccounted for and not reflected in metered usage.
  • Martin County Water has not yet implemented a number of remedial actions required following a 2007 independent management and operations audit. Those include developing a comprehensive plan to reduce water loss, implementing a preventative maintenance program and improving financial management.
  • According to a complaint filed by a customer, Martin County Water has failed to comply with a number of regulations related to service and water quality.

The investigation comes after a resident filed a complaint with the PSC in October of 2015.

"I was tired of being without water all the time," said Gary Ball of Lovely, Kentucky. "The water system here is like power in a third-world country. Sometimes you got it, sometimes you don't. In a third-world country they have brown outs. Here we just have water outages. You get up in the morning, it might be on it might be off. And I just got tired of it and filed a complaint."

Ball is the editor of the Mountain Citizen, the local newspaper in Inez. For several years, the paper has run stories about problems with the county's water.

"It's been a battle," Ball said. "Things improve for a little while, and then they slip back into the way things used to be. You may wake up in the morning and have water, then you might not."

The PSC says this is the third time action has been taken against Martin County Water since 2002. A 2003 settlement listed 43 steps that Martin County Water would take to correct deficiencies in its operations.

The PSC says the progress in making those corrections "was slow and unsteady".

In 2006, the PSC opened a second investigation. That proceeding led to the 2007 management and operations audit, which was completed in 2008.

The PSC says Martin County Water was again required to take specific corrective actions and file annual progress reports, which they say was uneven.

A 2014 PSC review found 37 uncompleted corrective measures. Martin County Water was told to address the backlog. A number have since been finished, but significant work remains to be done, the PSC said.

A PSC inspection in late 2014 found several deficiencies in Martin County Water’s record-keeping. Martin County Water has been told to correct those problems.

"That's the really bad thing," Ball said. "If with a regulatory agency, their progress has been slow and unsteady, you can imagine what it's like on the customer end."

Ball says he is no longer impacted by the water problems, but is speaking up for other customers. He stopped using the county's water when he filed the complaint. Now, he uses Kermit water, but says he wants to be a voice for the rest of the community.

"A lot of elderly, a lot of people who are sickly," Ball said. "They deserve good water. They pay for it."

He said that he thinks the county has the money to fix issues with the water, but that it is being spent on other things.

"It's just that people here don't want to acknowledge that there's a problem," Ball said. "It's really hard to acknowledge that you've got a problem when you've chosen instead to build a $10 million third courthouse in the county and other things that apparently county leaders think are more important than water."

WSAZ reached out to Joe Hammond, the business manager at MCWD. Hammond told WSAZ because of the ongoing investigation, he could only answer questions in writing. We sent him an email Tuesday afternoon and are awaiting his response.

Monday's order directs Martin County Water to attend a conference with PSC in May.



ORIGINAL STORY 4/12/16
MARTIN COUNTY, Ky. (WSAZ) -- The Kentucky Public Service Commission has opened an investigation into the operations and management of Martin County Water district.

Monday, the PSC cited longstanding concerns about the district, which they say have not been addressed or have resurfaced in recent years.

"“In numerous inspections and investigations (at Martin County Water District) since the late 1990s, the (PSC) has found lingering problems of significantly high water loss, lack of performance of routine maintenance and testing, and failure to follow acceptable management practices,” the PSC said.

The order cites the following problems:

  • Martin County Water’s loss rate has been in excess of 60 percent in recent years, which is more than four times what is normally permitted in Kentucky regulations. That means that six out of every 10 gallons the utility produces or purchases are unaccounted for and not reflected in metered usage.
  • Martin County Water has not yet implemented a number of remedial actions required following a 2007 independent management and operations audit. Those include developing a comprehensive plan to reduce water loss, implementing a preventative maintenance program and improving financial management.
  • According to a complaint filed by a customer, Martin County Water has failed to comply with a number of regulations related to service and water quality.

The PSC says this is the third time action has been taken against Martin County Water since 2002. A 2003 settlement listed 43 steps that Martin County Water would take to correct deficiencies in its operations.

The PSC says the progress in making those corrections "was slow and unsteady".

In 2006, the PSC opened a second investigation. That proceeding led to the 2007 management and operations audit, which was completed in 2008.

The PSC says Martin County Water was again required to take specific corrective actions and file annual progress reports, which they say was uneven.

A 2014 PSC review found 37 uncompleted corrective measures. Martin County Water was told to address the backlog. A number have since been finished, but significant work remains to be done, the PSC said.

A PSC inspection in late 2014 found several deficiencies in Martin County Water’s recordkeeping. Martin County Water has been told to correct those problems.

Monday's order directs Martin County Water to attend a conference with PSC in May.



 
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