Q1.  What is the Clean Waterways Program of Frankfort and Franklin County?
A. The Clean Waterways Program is a community investment initiative to improve the water quality of Frankfort, Franklin County, and the Commonwealth through more effective management of the City and County sewer systems. This initiative expands upon the City’s past efforts to comply with the Clean Water Act and other state and local regulations.

The Program includes substantial capital and infrastructure improvements, sewer system enhancements and other required initiatives, including increased public notification and involvement. The Program is also intended to educate the public about our responsibilities under those regulations and the value the program provides for Kentuckians. Kentucky has more surface water and linear mileage of banks than any other state besides Alaska.

Our Waterways are a valuable natural resource – important for supplying water to our communities and great recreational attractions. The Clean Waterways Program is targeted at protecting the waterways that Frankfort and Franklin County potentially impact.

Q2.  Is Frankfort required to make these improvements?
 A. Yes. In 2007, the City of Frankfort entered into an agreement (called a “consent judgment”) with the Kentucky Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet (now known as the Energy and Environment Cabinet, or “EEC”). Under this agreement, the city is obligated to take steps to eliminate occurrences of sewer overflows from the city sanitary sewer system and develop a Long Term Control Plan for the reduction of combined sewer overflows. The USEPA has also issued an Administrative Order requiring that these steps be taken.  Because the city sewer system also serves portions of Franklin County, some areas in the county are included in this initiative as well. These steps will take several years to implement, and could include the construction of new sewer lines, the replacement, repair and/or enlargement of existing sewer lines, the addition of new sewer pumping stations, the elimination of illegal connections, reductions in infiltration, and/or the construction of large holding basins where water can be stored until it can be transported to the wastewater treatment plant for treatment.

Q3.  Why is this happening in our community?
 A. When our nation’s and Frankfort’s sewer systems were first built early in the last century, they were designed to carry both sewage and storm water in the same pipelines. These “combined sewer systems”  - many of which are still in use today – were designed to allow excess water to overflow into area rivers and streams during  heavy rain storms. This was permitted because at that time there was little understanding of the environmental impacts of this practice.

 As Frankfort and other cities grew and the negative environmental impacts of such overflows became apparent, separate “sanitary” sewer systems were built to keep storm water separate from raw sewage.

 Although the construction of combined sewer systems is no longer allowed, Frankfort — like more than 700 communities nationwide and nearly 20 in Kentucky— still has several points at which a combination of storm water and untreated sewage can escape into local rivers and streams. Like Frankfort, each of these cities is under state and federal mandates to make improvements that will dramatically reduce the frequency of such sewage and storm water overflows.

In Frankfort, these improvements -which are included in what we call our Clean Waterways Program - will take several years and cost millions of dollars. This investment will improve our entire community’s health and quality of life while protecting and enhancing the water in the Kentucky River, Elkhorn Creek and other nearby waterways. It is an investment in the future.

Q4.  Do other cities have sewage overflows?
    A.   Yes, many other cities are dealing with sewage overflows. In fact, Frankfort is only one of more than 700 cities across the country and nearly 20 in Kentucky that are under similar requirements to improve their sewer systems thereby protecting the water quality in their regions. In our area, these include Cincinnati, Louisville, Lexington, Ashland, and Paducah. Nationwide, the list includes Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Columbus, Detroit, New York City and Seattle.

Q5.  What happens if Frankfort does not make these improvements?
    A.   First, failure to make these improvements will continue to damage our environment and thus our quality of living; Second, Frankfort will be violating the Consent Judgment and the USEPA Administrative Order, and as a result would be subject to significant fines and penalties.

Q6.  What is the “Consent Judgment” I’ve heard about?
    A.   The Consent Judgment is a mutually agreed upon plan between the City and the Commonwealth of Kentucky. This agreement commits the City to adhere to requirements of the Clean Water Act over a specified time frame. It requires strict compliance with state and federal statutes, regulations and guidelines. To ensure compliance, government agencies have required consent judgments which are court judgments containing agreements between a sewer system operator and state or federal environmental agencies - under the guidance and sanction of the judicial system - that require that certain steps be taken by the system operator to reduce or eliminate sewer overflows in their area of operation. Because each community is different, each consent judgment also is different, in that it takes into account the specific conditions in each community. In Frankfort, the consent judgment was signed in 2007 and it places certain requirements on the City in terms of planning, funding, construction and reporting progress.

Q7.  When will the Sewer Department start to remedy the overflows?
    A.   Actually, work on correcting the problem has already begun. The FSD has several projects under way that started before the consent judgment was entered. For example, in the Holmes Street area of Frankfort, the FSD is implementing several projects to separate wastewater from stormwater to reduce overflows. This will help us mitigate CSO's and SSOs and comply with the requirements of the consent judgment. We expect to be working on this program for 15 years or more, as we improve our infrastructure, and therefore our capacity to handle large amounts of water safely and efficiently.

Q8.  How are solutions to this problem being identified?
    A.   Solutions are being identified in several ways. The FSD is working closely with the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet to ensure that our work meets state and federal standards. In addition, we are working with some of the region’s top engineering firms to identify the best solutions to updating and rehabilitating our sewer system. As part of that process, we will identify possible solutions, run engineering and computer models to determine how they would work, determine their costs and public impacts, engage the public in dialogue about the various options, and then decide which of those options to implement. At that time the solutions recommended will be communicated to the public.

Q9.  Who is involved, or who will be affected?
    A.   As mentioned above, the Clean Waterways Program involves the City of Frankfort, as represented by the Frankfort Sewer Department. Because the Sewer Department serves portions of Franklin County, the county also is involved. The Program primarily will affect home- and business-owners who are served by the Frankfort Sewer System. We all benefit from the program, however, as the reduction of these overflows and their  impact on the community will make our community a safer place to live, work and play. Area waterways and those using them will be the greatest beneficiaries.

Q10.  What is the Clean Water Act and how does it affect our region?
    A.   The Clean Water Act became law in 1972, with the goal of reducing pollutant discharges into the waterways of the United States. Specifically, the law seeks to restore the viability and integrity of the nation’s waters so they can support “the protection and propagation of fish, shellfish, and wildlife and recreation in and on the water." Frankfort - like every other city in the United States – is subject to the requirements of the Clean Water Act, and therefore must comply with its provisions. Failure to do so can result in substantial fines against the city, as well as environmental issues that could adversely affect the health and well-being of our community.

Q11.  What about the Commonwealth of Kentucky and other major employers? Are they involved in this Program? Do they have to help pay?
    A.   Every customer of the Frankfort Sewer Department will be involved in this program whether directly or indirectly.  This includes not only homeowners, but also our local industries, medical and educational facilities, restaurants, and municipal, county, state and federal governments.

 FAQ Section 1: Overview and General Questions

clean waterways

Conditions are such that an overflow may occur.





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