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By Jamie Baker-Nantz

Nearly two dozen property owners filed a lawsuit against the City of Williamstown on March 3 because of improper water treatment and removal of sludge.

Also in question is the water quality for the lake, which provides much of the drinking water for Grant County.

“Recently there has been discussion and reports amongst the community that the water in the lake may be unsafe to drink as a result of the treatment plant deposits,’ the lawsuit reads.

Williamstown Mayor Rick Skinner  said the city tests the water from the lake daily.

“We have confidence in those tests,” Skinner said.

Jack Gatlin of Strauss and Troy, filed the lawsuit, which also claims over the years that sediment and other materials/discharge deposits from the treatment plant have built up on the plaintiff’s property, which has caused the cove where the homes are situated to become mostly filled with sludge.

“One can look at the satellite maps on Google Earth and see the sludge flowing from the water treatment facility into Lake Williamstown. It is absolutely shocking that for several decades the city of Williamstown has allowed this to occur to one of their greatest natural resources and a large source of drinking water for Grant County,” said Gatlin.

Gatlin said initial testing of the cove indicated a “significantly higher level of aluminum oxide than in other areas of the lake.”

The suit also claims the city has received several notices of violation dating back to 1995 and as recent as 2008.

Those violations include:
• The wastewater treatment plant is not being properly operated and maintained.
• The filter backwash is not being properly treated before release.
• The stream receiving the backwash has been degraded. Black solids have been visible on the stream bed and the water is black.

Lake Williamstown was built in the 1950s as a 330-acre water source and recreation lake by the city, state and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.

In 1963 the city constructed the water treatment plant.

According to the lawsuit, the city received a notice of violation on Sept. 6, 1995 concerning violations. The city was given a deadline of Oct. 6, 1995 to file a detailed response as well as corrective measures that would be taken.

The city also received a notice of violation on May 29, 2008 concerning the water being black and black solids being visible on the stream bed.

On June 25, 2008, the city responded to the complaint that it would “remove all solids from the sludge basin three times per week, but that building an additional basin wasn’t economically feasible.”

Six of plaintiffs’ are full-time residents of Lake Williamstown, with the remaining 14 plaintiffs’ being residents of Ohio, but own property on the lake.

One of them, John Reed, took photos showing sludge on top of the frozen water in January 2011.

The plaintiffs’ claim that many of their properties had access to the water from their cove when they built their homes, but due to the sludge accumulation over the years, the cove “has become a mud pit,” with only 5 to 6 inches of water in it.

The plaintiffs’ are seeking damages, as well as a permanent injunction to stop the city from “continuing improper and unreasonable operation of the treatment plant.”

The city of Williamstown has insurance coverage through the Kentucky League of Cities.