The Paintsville Utilities Commission discussed the alert system in place for water treatment plant tanks and the system that should sound alarms when a tank reaches a capacity which threatens an overflow during its regular meeting on Monday, Apr. 4.

During the meeting, Paintsville Utilities General Manager presented the commissioners with a printout as an example of what sort of visual data he and plant operators were using to judge the status of each tank — including a detailed description of the transducers that determine the water levels, their varying levels of accuracy and the workings of how the alert system is now set up, in an effort to prevent another overflow situation like the one that occurred during the flooding on Feb. 28. That flooding, according to Pack, reached onto an adjacent private property.

According to Pack and Operations Manager Bobby Spears, a new policy has been put in place that has plant managers logging the water levels for each tank throughout the system each hour, although they do check the levels more often than that. A disagreement broke out among commissioner Mitch Kinner and Bob Pack after commissioner Jimmy Wright mentioned that he thought plant managers could physically see the water and was told by Pack, Spears and another employee that that was not the case and the visual data Pack was referring to was the telemetry presented to the commission on the printout.

Kinner disagreed, stating that he believed Pack had mentioned video observation capability.

“That’s what we were told, that there’s video capability that the operator can sit at the control panel and physically can see what the depth is and they can actually see inside the tank,” Kinner said. “I know we were told that.”

“What they can see is the indicated level on the display,” Pack said.

“I’ll tell you what I’ll do, I’ll bet you a thousand dollars that if I go back and read the transcript or look at the transcript, that you all sat right there and told us that there’s video capability that you can see inside the tanks,” Kinner said, addressing Pack. “You’re the one that said it, you said you could see it from your phone.”

“There’s no video,” Pack said, with Spears interjecting that all that was visible was the numbers. Pack presented the printout to Kinner and said that all he could see was the digital display he had available from his phone. “I think the reference was they could see the water level.”

Kinner asked how the video idea came into play at the commission’s previous meeting, and Pack asked if somebody took the bet, leading to laughter among the commission. According to The Paintsville Herald’s recording of the commission’s previous meeting, only Kinner mentioned video capability and Pack said that operators could see the level, but did not explicitly mention video observation.

During that meeting on Mar.8, Kinner said, “I didn’t realize that you could look at them on video in addition to having an alarm.”

“They’ve got a screen in front of them, it shows every tank and every pump station so you can see what’s going on,” Pack said.

The commission then, at this month’s meeting, discussed what criteria would warrant an alert and a “high-high” level in the tank — referencing two columns on the printout, one of which was the data that the pumps for the tanks saw to start and stop automatically, referred to as AI1, while a second column labeled AI2 was a transducer reading calculated from the water’s weight.

“AI1 is what the pumps see to start and stop,” Spears said. “AI2 is what is the tank level, as far as, the transducer, what it does is it measures water weight and it computes that to a footage and that’s what the pumps read off of to start and stop, and then, what is actually in the tank is AI2.”

The commissioners then asked if there was a reason that some tanks did not have a readout for the AI2 column and Spears said that some of the newer tanks did not have this same reading, although they clarified this was a difference in telemetry technology and not a malfunction or lack of function and Kinner asked for clarification that they could still observe a high or high-high level in the tanks, which Water Plant Superintendent Matt Spradlin said they could.

Kinner asked what the protocol was if there was a high-high condition, meaning both the AI1 and AI2 readouts were showing close to being over-capacity, which was answered by Spradlin stating that they check to see if the pump is working and if it’s not, they make a call to alert Pack and whoever else needs to be apprised of the situation.

The commission then asked further questions of Spradlin about the alarm system, which Spradlin explained would give a warning at the plant and the plant operator would have to acknowledge that alarm to disable it before taking further measures to ensure everything was in working order.

“It’ll flash until you acknowledge it,” Spradlin said. “Then a box will pop up and you’ll have to enter comments (as to what action was taken) and put your initials in ... you check to see if the pump has kicked off, you’d check to see if a setting has been changed, or something of that nature, if it’s showing that it should be kicked off, but it hasn’t, you’d then need to contact somebody, like (Distribution Superintendent) Craig Welch ...”

The commission entered an executive session to discuss pending litigation but returned to active session with no action taken before adjourning. No further updates have been given on the situation of potential litigation as of presstime on Tuesday, Apr. 6.

The Paintsville Utilities commission meets on the first Monday of each month at 5 p.m. in the company’s main administrative office on Main Street. All meetings are open to the public, although, due to COVID-19, prospective attendees may need to call ahead.