FRANKFORT — Martin officials filed a response Monday in Franklin Circuit Court to a motion seeking to hold the city in contempt in its ongoing legal battle over its wastewater treatment plant.
The response seeks to overrule a previous motion filed by the Division of Enforcement seeking to hold the city in contempt for breaching a March injunction against the city further polluting its waterways with untreated effluent.
According to the contempt motion, Martin remains in violation of the Divisions of Water’s injunction, continuing to discharge raw sewage via unpermitted overflows and bypasses from the wastewater treatment plant, and failing to report all spills and bypass discharges to the cabinet.
In the response, filed Monday by city attorney Clyde Johnson, the city of Martin claims that it is living up to its end of an agreement with the Division of Water, despite the city’s current economic despair.
The motion cites an April 3 meeting with Division of Water representatives Kari Hass, Joshua George, and counsel Kathleen Saunier in which discussion were held regarding the city’s long-term project and immediate remedial measures which the city had undertaken to curb the outflow of untreated water.
Johnson says in the motion that, “City representatives left feeling the meeting had been very productive and informative.”
The city submitted a corrective action plan on April 22, and Johnson says that since until the motion for contempt was filed, the city had received no negative feedback to suggest that the plan or the city’s undertakings were insufficient.
Jeff Cummins, with the Division of Enforcement, which has spurred the legal action on the Division of Water’s behalf, said last week that the action against the city of Martin was not meant to be punitive but to call to into question the city’s lack of interim action to curb its current problems.
“The issue is not to be punitive,” Cummins told Times Staff last week. “The issue is, we’ve seen continued unpermitted discharges since the March injunction.”
Cummins said the city has continued improper maintenance and operation of the facilities.
In Monday’s motion, Johnson says that the city has undertaken measures to stem the flow of untreated effluent into the water ways, including making arrangements with three separate contractors to pump lift stations regularly in the event of overflows. The city has also sought to purchase a backhoe to dredge the drying ponds, but has, so far, been unable to secure one with its limited spending ability. Johnson says, “However, the Mayor has been using his personal backhoe to attempt to maintain the drying beds at no cost to the city.”
The city’s ability to deal effectively with the wastewater treatment plant has been “greatly exacerbated” by the city’s financial difficulties, Johnson says, brought about by a decrease in tax base due to the stalled U.S. Army Corps of Engineers redevelopment project, which has removed many residents and businesses from the city and, he says, has left the city looking like a “depopulated third world country.”
“The effects on the city’s tax base have been staggering,” says Johnson.
The city of Martin is seeking to have the Division of Enforcement’s motion for contempt to be overruled.
On Monday, the city broke ground on a FEMA funded project to rehabilitate and upgrade its entire wastewater system. The project is contractually scheduled for completion on Nov. 6.
Since 2005, the Martin wastewater treatment plant has been cited numerous times for blatant violations by the Division of Water, with more than two dozen having been filed since 2011.