Terry Goins, director of the Lake Barkley Water Board, said at the board’s meeting earlier this month that it meant that if the district made $200,000 in a month, a fire department that didn’t report its water usage for that month would owe the district $600.
Goins also said the board was directed by the Kentucky Public Service Commission to pass this tariff as a way of preventing water loss, and continued to say that the PSC is requiring them to pass the tariff.
The board had to send the tariff back to the PSC for its ultimate approval, said Goins, who thinks the PSC will let them know if they approve or not by the board’s next meeting on Monday, Aug. 9. After that, the board will send notices out to all the volunteer fire departments, Goins added.
David Lovett, superintendent of the Lyon County Water District, said his board has considered enacting that themselves, but stated that it has “fallen by the wayside.”
“It won’t hurt fire departments to report how much water they’re using,” Trigg/Lyon Volunteer Fire Chief Paul Carr said. Although Carr said the tariff seems high, he thinks that will persuade the fire departments to report how much water they use.
Trigg County Magistrate Donnie Tyler is also with the Trigg/Lyon Volunteer Fire Department. In his opinion, the new tariff won’t affect the TFVFD too much, save for more paperwork, since they’re already reporting their water usage.
Carr said they’ve generally reported their water usage after each training session and after each fire they help to put out, adding that now he’ll report it each month while he pays his water bill.
Don Robertson, chairman of the Lyon County Water Board, said that the volunteer fire departments have in the past not reported their water usage, but through a series of meetings that problem has been taken care of for the most part.
Although the departments generally report their water usage to the board, many times they’ll say they haven’t used any water, said Lovett, who also said they’re “sort of on the h honor system.”
Goins thinks the amount of water the volunteer fire departments use is a drop in the bucket compared to the district’s overall water loss.
He said that a water main could break, but one of the big sources of the district’s loss is the fact that they have 150 miles of asbestos pipes that were installed in the 60s and are now seeping water.
At its last inspection, the PSC found the Lake Barkley Water District “deficient” because of its water loss. But Goins said they have staff on call 24 hours a day and seven days a week in case a main does break.
“We repair leaks immediately if we know about them,” said Goins.
Tyler said he can understand why the PSC would want to know how much water the fire departments are using, as they’ve used 10,000 gallons or more on some fires, a number that he argued would represent a serious leak otherwise.
“It’s easy to know how much water you’ve used after you’ve filled up a 1,000-gallon pumper and a 3,700-gallon tanker,” Tyler said.
Robertson also said fire departments are able to give an estimate that is mostly accurate. As an example, he said a 6-inch water hydrant will release so many gallons of water a minute, and a “fairly accurate” estimate can generally be made from that.
If a fire department’s water usage isn’t reported, the PSC will see that as an unidentified water loss and will be much more hesitant to approve grant application, especially if a department shows a water loss of 15 percent or more, Robertson said.
It would be foolish not to report water usage once the tariff takes effect, although the fire departments should be working with the water district anyway, said Tyler.
The ordinance requires fire departments to report their monthly water usage, even if they don’t withdraw any water for fire protection or training purposes, and although the tariff is placed on departments that don’t report, they can present evidence of their actual usage.
Fire departments are also charged a penalty for each failure to submit a report in a timely manner. However, the ordinance sent to the board didn’t set a number for the penalty, so they set it at $25.\