Kentucky Rural Water and Neighboring Systems Assist Community When Source Runs Dry

WHEELWRIGHT, Ken. – When the City of Wheelwright’s water source ran dry, experts from the Kentucky Rural Water Association and crews from neighboring communities rallied to connect to a new source and restore service.

“I was in a classroom, teaching when a student said: ‘Have you seen what’s happening in Wheelwright?’” Said Danny Stinson, a KRWA Circuit Rider. Circuit Riders are roving water experts that provide training and technical assistance throughout their state.

Wheelwright uses an abandoned coal mine as their water source.

“Almost all subterranean mines require some form of dewatering,” explained KRWA Circuit Rider Tim Blanton. “Generally speaking, they’re just as good a water source as a well.”

The mine that supplied Wheelwright, though, was running dry during a substantial drought. The system was also suffering from considerable water loss that was draining the limited water supplies. Stinson traveled to Wheelwright to start working on repairing leaks and reducing demand while Blanton helped switch to a reserve water source. KRWA also supplied emergency drinking water for the community while the water source was down.

“The town had bought some bottled water and Kentucky Rural Water sent over a few pallets of emergency drinking water,” said Wesley Little, the Wheelwright Water System Operations Specialist.

Stinson began examining the system plan his approach to leak detection.

“I started thinking about how the system was set up and where the highest pressures were,” Stinson said. “We started at the bottom and started working our way up.”

Because the Wheelwright system relied on the mountains to gravity feed the system, the pipes with the highest pressure had the greatest chance for high-volume leaks. Stinson started working on finding leaks while crews from the neighboring Southern Water and Sewer District worked to make repairs.

“We found five leaks that totaled over 60 gallons per minute,” Stinson said. “That doesn’t sound like much, but for a system where the overall demand is 35 gallons per minute, that’s substantial.”

Blanton worked with a contractor that was working to reverse the flow at a pressure reducing station that would allow Wheelwright to draw additional water through a connection to Southern Water and Sewer and Knott County Water and Sewer.

“Knott County is a large regional supplier,” Blanton explained. “They were already set up as a supplier for a subsection of Southern Water and Sewer, and with changes to the station they could supply additional water to Wheelwright.”

Many of the connections were in place but had never been used.

“The station was put in place in the 90s but it had never been used,” Little said.

Blanton and the contractors worked to reverse the pumps in the station while inspecting and cleaning the pumps, filters and flow management equipment.

“We had to go through everything because that station had never been put into service,” he said.

The combined effort restored water to Wheelwright and helped give the system an alternative water source in case of future emergencies.

“They were extremely helpful,” Little said. “They put in a lot of time and effort helping us out.”

KRWA’s assistance hasn’t been limited to the emergency.

“I appreciate everything they do for us,” Little said. “Not just during this incident, but throughout the year.”