During the drought of 1988, owner Joe Hannah was forced to run a fire hose across U.S. Grant Bridge to buy enough water from Portsmouth to keep his customers supplied.
The problem was mitigated about 10 years ago when Greenup began supplementing South Shore’s supply with a line connecting the two systems on Ky. 7 at Plum Fork Hill, seven miles south of town.
“That has prevented those water shortages that we continuously have every summer,” said Hannah, who pays Greenup, a public system, for the water.
Recently, Hannah received a letter from Greenup Mayor Lundy Meadows — through Greenup’s attorney, R. Steven McGinnis — that’s left him frustrated and fuming.
The letter said that effective June 1 Greenup will be unable to supply any more water to South Shore on any regular basis.
The reason given is that Greenup will bring its Phase 8 extension on line to serve an additional 300 customers in rural areas of Greenup County. The pump station supplying water to South Shore is running about 19 hours a day, even before Phase 8 is connected to the system, according to the letter.
“At the discretion of the mayor,” the letter said, “Greenup would be willing to supply water to South Shore only in case of a dire emergency, and that would be on a very limited basis, the amounts determined by the needs of the rest of our system.”
It said the letter should not be considered in any way a contract, but “just a courtesy notification.”
Hannah is fuming because a federal grant was used to install the booster pump and line to connect with South Shore. Some of those tax dollars were paid by South Shore’s water customers and now they’re being told they can’t get the water their tax dollars paid for, even though, he says, the federal loan was for that specific purpose, Hannah said.
“We are currently taking 15 to 35 gallons a minute from Greenup. If they can’t supply that, then why is the state giving them more millions in grant money to run lines to 300 more homes?” Hannah asked.
As a private company, Hannah’s water system doesn’t qualify for federal grants. He also pays state, federal and local taxes, plus income and sales taxes, something he said public utilities are not required to do.
Hannah blames the federal government for the problems causing his system to suffer low water. In the mid 1970s, when U.S. 23 heading west out of town was widened to four lanes, drainage pipes were driven deep into the steep hillside. This, Hannah believes, diverted the aquifers that fed his wells.
“We have always had supply problems since 1975. The three wells I had in operation in 1974 supplied more water than the 11 wells I have operating now,” he said. “All because the flow of the underground streams was changed forever by the highway construction.”
What he’s hoping for now, he said, is that the long summer brings no drought.