Before Wastewater Treatment
Until the early to mid-1900s, most towns and cities in the US discharged raw sewage directly into streams, rivers, lakes or oceans. Wastewater in Northern Kentucky was discharged directly into the Ohio River or its tributaries. At the time, this method was acceptable and was less expensive than having to treat the wastewater. The practice was eventually criticized due to the degradation of local waterways, and in 1948, Congress passed its first law aimed at protecting water quality — the Federal Water Pollution Control Act.
SD1 was established in 1946 by the Division of Sanitary Engineering of the Kentucky Department of Health pursuant to an amendment of Chapter 220 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS 220). Prior to 1946, a small system of sewer lines already existed in Northern Kentucky, however, the region was still in need of proper wastewater treatment. The amendment to KRS 220 gave SD1 authority to prevent and correct the pollution of streams, regulate the flow of streams for sanitary purposes, clean and improve stream channels for sanitary purposes and collect and dispose of sewage and other liquid wastes produced throughout the established service area. It also granted SD1 authority to construct sewers, trunk sewers, laterals, intercepting sewers, siphons, pump stations, treatment and disposal works and other appropriate facilities. SD1's authority under KRS 220 also included maintenance and operation responsibilities of the above listed structures and facilities.
Northern Kentucky's First Treatment Plant
The original area served by SD1 contained 17 municipalities and covered 25 square miles. At that time, each community had its own independent system for the collection and treatment of sewage. It was SD1's responsibility to construct a sewage treatment plant and collection system that would convey sewage from the various municipalities to a treatment facility. In 1954, after many years of planning, construction of Northern Kentucky's first wastewater treatment plant was completed in the City of Bromley. Serving Campbell and Kenton counties, the Bromley Wastewater Treatment Plant provided primary treatment of wastewater before discharging it to the Ohio River.
Advancement in Wastewater Treatment
The Bromley Plant eventually became outdated due to more stringent water quality regulations, advancements in wastewater technology and the area's increasing population. In 1970, the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) adopted requirements for secondary treatment of sewage for all waters that feed into the Ohio River. In 1977, Congress passed the Clean Water Act, granting the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) authority to further regulate discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States. In response to the new regulations, SD1 constructed the Dry Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, which entered service in 1979. This project also included the construction of new interceptor sewers and pump stations. Located in Villa Hills, the treatment plant was designed to treat 30 million gallons a day (mgd). In 1993, due to the growing population of Northern Kentucky, the plant was upgraded to a design capacity of 46.5 mgd.
In 1994, in response to pending changes in environmental regulations and increased public interest in consolidation of services, KRS 220 was amended, allowing SD1 to operate sewage and drainage systems in cities located within its jurisdictional boundaries. On July 1, 1995, 28 cities in Northern Kentucky turned over ownership of their sanitary sewer systems to SD1. On December 31, 1995, Boone County officially merged with SD1, and subsequent to that date, the cities of Independence and Alexandria transferred ownership of their sewer lines to SD1. As a result of these consolidations, SD1 assumed ownership and operational responsibility for approximately 900 additional miles of sanitary sewer lines and related pump stations.
Regional Storm Water Management Program
Legislation adopted in 1998 by the Kentucky General Assembly granted SD1 authority to regulate and finance storm water facilities within its designated service area. In response to requests from more than 30 Northern Kentucky communities, SD1 accepted the responsibility to develop and implement a regional storm water management program to comply with USEPA's 1999 Federal Storm Water Phase II Regulations. This role was formalized in 2003 through the development and adoption of Interlocal Agreements to provide Kentucky Pollutant Discharge Elimination System storm water discharge permit services and other storm water-related services in Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties. As part of the Agreements, SD1 began assuming responsibility of the public storm water collection systems in 2009.
To view a list of the communities that have transferred the ownership of their public storm sewer systems to SD1, click here.
SD1 is the second largest public sewer utility in Kentucky, with ownership and maintenance responsibilities for all of the sanitary sewer systems in Northern Kentucky, with the exception of Florence and Walton. SD1 maintains approximately 1,600 miles of sanitary sewer line, 135 wastewater pumping stations, 15 flood pump stations, eight package treatment plants, three major wastewater treatment plants, nearly 450 miles of storm sewer and 32,500 storm sewer structures.
Planning for the Future
In 2007, SD1 entered into a federal court order with the USEPA, the Kentucky Environmental Public Protection Cabinet and the US Department of Justice, requiring an estimated $1.2 billion investment over the next 20 years to address sewage overflows in Northern Kentucky. Included in the order was the requirement to construct two new regional wastewater treatment plants – a four mgd plant in Campbell County and a 20 mgd plant in Boone County. The Eastern Regional Water Reclamation Facility in Campbell County, was completed in 2008 and the Western Regional Water Reclamation Facility in Boone County, became operational in spring 2012.
SD1 is taking a watershed approach to future improvement plans that will holistically evaluate the cumulative impacts of pollution sources on receiving waters. The use of this watershed approach will lead to more rapid improvements in water quality in critical areas with more efficient and cost-effective solutions for the region.