Aging Cement Pipe Requires Million Dollar Project to Fix Water Break Issues in Estill County

Estill County takes on massive water project to prevent water break catastophe

IRVINE, Ky. (WTVQ) – A community in Estill County known as Irvine has a lot of promise for infrastructure, good quality of life, and economic growth. However, the community is being held by a water and sewer issue. This summer, county leaders and utility managers are hoping to take on a big water project that would ultimately give citizens a better quality of life.

Over the years, the people of Irvine Kentucky have endured multiple water breaks. According to Donnie Watson who serves as Judge Executive, boil water advisories are issued about 6-8 times a year. Watson says this is very much a cause for concern. Occasionally when there’s a break, the contaminated water will poorly affect the health of citizens, often the elderly and or those with compromised immune systems. This is because there have been cases of typhoid in the water, and while many people are vaccinated from that sort of illness, it will still affect a lot of people according to Watson.

“You can catch a lot of stomach bugs and really wind up hospitalized and some people do die from severe diseases that are caught in the water,” explains Watson.

A single pot of boiling water will give you about a gallon of water. While that sounds like enough to last someone a day, it can’t sustain a normal lifestyle. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average person will use anywhere from 82-100 gallons of water per day. Keep in mind, to do a single load of laundry requires about 45-60 gallons of water. We also require water for other reasons besides consumption, which include cleaning ourselves, using the toilet, cleaning messes, and cooking.

In February, Estill County Received a grant from Governor Andy Beshear’s Cleaner Water Program. More than $500,000 was given to Irvine to fix their water and sewer issues. The county aims to take on a massive project costing 1.3 million dollars. With the money given by the Governor and thousands of dollars collected by the county, managers are still short about 250,000 and they say they are running out of time.

This is because a possible break in the main meter vault is on its last legs and could cause a “catastrophe” according to Billy Williams, the Operational Manager of Irvine Municipal Utilities.

In the 1960s a 12-inch water main pipe made of asbestos cement was put into the ground. However, Williams says it was put in a very bad spot, between the CSX Railroad and the Bank of the Kentucky River, which often floods. According to utility experts, this is a very tough area to access when there’s a nearby break, which has led the county to save up and ask for funding to move it. If it won’t be moved, Williams says he predicts that it will be anywhere from 4-5 years before the pipe gives out…which would cause 70 percent of the county, about 18,000 people, to be without water for a long time, possible days if not longer.

Williams says this is not something the county should overlook since water breaks around the area are often occurring because of the transition of seasons.

“The ground shifts during the spring and the fall. As it will freeze and thaw the ground will move rigid pipe concrete pipe it could break,” explains Williams. In the 60 years that the pipe has been serving the community, there hasn’t been a break, however, managers are crossing their fingers they don’t see one until they get the project underway.

“If it were to break schools would be out..the hospital would be affected people would be out of the you’re just looking at a catastrophe if it were to blow out a 12-inch line,” adds Williams.

According to Williams, the meter is underneath the Kentucky river. The million-dollar plan would be to snake it on the west side of the river and back on the original side and connect it to the 500,000-gallon tank of water up the river. This way, if there’s a break, managers could shut off the valve where the area is compromised and allow hundreds of gallons of water to supply to the county as repairs are made.

The hope for county leaders and utility managers is to come up with the remaining $250,000 needed to complete the project. The hope for next year is that citizens will not have to endure as many water breaks if any in the future. Once this project is squared away, the long-term plan is to bring more infrastructure to Irvine. Before businesses and schools can set up shop, the county knows it needs to put its citizens needs first, and prioritize clean water.

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