Kentucky Sewage System Worst in Nation

Poor Kentucky. Not only does the state often find itself near the bottom of national rankings on education and income; now, it’s dead last in plumbing. Fully 40 percent of Kentucky homes are not connected to sewage treatment plants, instead relying on failing septic tanks or “straight pipes” that discharge waste directly into streams and rivers. The result? The “same conditions that face many developing countries,” said Julie Smoak, coordinator of the state Division of Water’s on-site wastewater programs. Ridding the state of all of its straight pipes could cost some $3 billion, but the price tag is only one problem; lack of information is another. “I’m not sure how we’re going to find these pipes, other than walking up a creek with hip-waders,” said Richard Thomas, a representative of Eastern Kentucky PRIDE, a program that funds new sewage treatment plants and sewer lines.