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After days of experiencing water shortages in certain areas, officials with the city of Hazard began distributing cases of water to community members.

After several areas of the city and county experienced water leaks, shortages and outages, officials with the City of Hazard began working on repairing multiple waterline breaks, and the city declared a certificate of emergency. This week, several businesses and residents throughout the City of Hazard were also affected by a major gas leak.

Last week, on Dec. 30, a certificate of emergency was declared by the city. Tony Eversole, the assistant city manager of Hazard, signed a certificate of emergency stating that the City of Hazard was under an emergency condition involving the supply of water to its customers both inside and outside the city due to severe weather conditions experienced in the past weeks which caused multiple serious waterline breaks and the serious loss of water storage capacity in all parts of the system.

This shortage, the certificate said, threatens disruption of service to residential, commercial and industrial customers in various parts of the system. Due to this, city officials are asking any residential, commercial and industrial customers to conserve, reduce, ration or restrict water usage for the duration of the

emergency condition.

A special Hazard City Commission meeting was held that evening, Dec. 30, for city officials to provide an update on the situation and discuss the emergency certificate. Bobby Holland and Robert Davis attended the meeting and provided updates on behalf of the city utilities crews.

“We’re making progress. It’s a slow process, but we’re making progress,” said Holland.

Davis said the city has approximately 30 tanks and 50 pump stations and the crews have to choose which is most important to work on in the sequence, taking turns to work on them by hand and trying not to let the water levels go under a certain level.

“So far at this plant we’re pumping maximum capacity, our capacity is five million a day and we’re maxed out,” said Davis.

During the meeting, a motion was made and passed to allow for the resolution regarding water issues.

“We declared an emergency in a certain area, it’s not county wide. We have about 400 residents out of 10,000 without water,” said Hazard Mayor Donald “Happy” Mobelini, explaining that residents in Bulan, Duane, Dwarf, Ary, Rowdy and Ky. 80 were without water, and other areas were experiencing issues with water.

“Our water system covers a wide variety of places, 39 miles one way and 38 miles another,” he said, stating that it covers many areas and would take time to reach all of them.

The water system, said Mobelini, is outdated and will need repairs, and the city has been working with the county to take necessary steps on fixing the water problems.

“This is not just a city problem. We’re the facilitator of it, but this is a county wide problem,” said Mobelini.

“As long as we have these old lines, we’re going to have water problems,” said Mobelini. “We take full responsibility of the city and we’re going to try our best to work with anybody that we can work with to get this water situation solved. We’re coming up with a comprehensive plan, we want to have as good of a water system as we can but it takes time.”

The city, he said, has been working with the county to get interconnects placed throughout the county. One of the interconnects designated for Ky. 80 is ready and has been bid on, said Mobelini, but has not been placed yet.

Perry County Judge-Executive Scott Alexander said the city and county have been continually working on solving the water issues for years and are getting closer with each step. Alexander praised the city commissioners and Mobelini for working together on the issues.

“When they first started they agreed to accept this interconnect on Hwy 80, and so it has took us about two years to secure the funding and get it in place. I know it doesn’t help people at the moment but I want them to know that we didn’t sit idly by and do nothing, that we’ve been working on this and by this time next year that will be in place,” said Alexander. “The interconnect to Buckhorn through Breathitt County, the city of Jackson, that interconnect is in place now.”

The interconnect planned to extend from Knott County and Carr Creek Lake to Hwy 80, he said, is in the process of being completed.

“The bid has been awarded, we’ll be having a special called meeting one day next week to accept the bid. It will probably take about 30 weeks to get the material and stuff in, but by this time next year that interconnect should be in place,” said Alexander. “That will allow us to feed around 750,000 gallons a day into the Bulan tank.”

In addition to those two interconnects, Alexander said they are hoping to get a third interconnect and a new water plant.

“We’re looking at an interconnect at Jeff that would feed 750,000 gallons a day. We’re also working on another water plant on the tail waters at Buckhorn,” said Alexander.

The city and county, said Alexander, have been experiencing water issues for many years, but he said the current administration in both city and county are dedicated to securing the funds needed to improve the water system.

“They (the area) had issues prior to six years ago when we started then we had that real bad winter and we discussed it then that we could no longer not do nothing, we had to make some changes. The fiscal court has been on board ever since then to do what it takes to see that we get the necessary available water, not only for the safety and well-being of our citizens, but for the economic growth of this community,” said Alexander. “We’re going to continue to push for water, it’s a basic necessity of life.

“There is all kinds of different grants out there that you can go for and not all of them are based on water. Not only are we going after the grants we can for water, when other grants become available that we can help the community we’re still going to go after them,” Alexander said. “They have a specific purpose they can be used for. The water has to be solved, but we have to continue to work other pieces of the puzzle so we can get there.”

Mobelini agreed, stating that the city will continue to search for available funding.

“We’ve got to get that new water plant, we’ve got to get the new lines, we’ve got to get new tanks and that is going to take time,” said Mobelini.

The city, he said, has applied for every single grant that they can and will continue to do so.

“The short-term goal is that we can do these interconnects within a couple of years, but the plant will take five to six years once we secure all the funding, so we have to work it both ways those short-term and long-term,” said Alexander. “I think the new plant will cost around nine million dollars to build and I think we’re going to secure around a million dollars for the design. You have to have the plans and design in place to start chasing the funding for the plant itself. We’re about to get a huge hurdle cleared in the right direction for a new plant.”

To aid the community, the city had trucks distribute shipments of water cases to Robinson Elementary School and the Lost Creek Fire Department on Dec. 29, at Robinson Elementary on Dec. 30 and at  Leatherwood Elementary School on Jan. 4. City officials said water can be distributed as needed and distribution dates, locations and times will be announced on the Facebook page “City of Hazard Utilities.”

On Jan. 4, the city of Hazard experienced a city-wide main line gas break resulting in several businesses and residences being affected. As of Jan. 5, city officials said the gas line is in a difficult location both because of depth and terrain, and said crews were still digging at the site to reach the broken line. As soon as the line is reached and repairs begin, city officials will post a new update. Due to the difficulty in digging to this line, it is hard to give any time estimates on these repairs, said representatives of the city utilities.

As of press time, Jan. 5, city officials said most of the areas impacted by the water shortage were repaired, but the water may take some time to reach higher elevations and farther areas after being turned back on. Crews were still working to get affected areas back on as soon as possible. All areas affected by this break that have had water service returned are on a boil water advisory, said city officials.