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A state agency has taken an interest in an issue that has concerned some Vine Grove residents for more than a decade.
Larry Stutler remembers when he moved into his house on Rosecreek Drive in 1998 when his back yard and those of neighbors on his side of the street had a foot-deep indention through it.
Since then, he has watched construction of Radcliff Middle School, North Hardin High School and new homes and businesses divert more water to storm drains that filter into his back yard.
Over the years, he and other residents say runoff has eroded the ground between their property and a ditch that reaches to about 10 feet deep in some places. During downpours, residents also worry about swift currents sweeping away children or pets and potential damage to sewer lines behind their homes.
There is about a foot-high gap between the sewer line behind Stutler’s property and the bed of the ditch beneath it, and he said buried sewer lines exposed by the erosion have busted before.
A state Division of Water investigator recently inspected the ditch.
The investigator didn’t bring up erosion concerns, but was worried about the exposed sewer lines, said Charles Roth, supervisor of the Louisville Regional Office of the Division of Water.
The exposure isn’t a state violation, but does present the possibility of the lines busting. The investigator spoke to Vine Grove Mayor Blake Proffitt, who said he already was working with engineers to address the problem, Roth said.
Help is available to prevent erosion if residents or the city of Vine Grove need it, Roth said.
State Division of Water spokeswoman Allison Fleck said, in general, storm water runoff is a problem. Sediment can choke aquatic animal and plant life. Contractors must have permits and make sure loose dirt doesn’t end up harming the ecosystem, Fleck said.
Resident Mike Freel said, based on experience in a former job as a city planner in Detroit, he thinks the hillside leading into the ditch washed out because of parking lot construction and residential development with a lack of drainage.
“It’s going to get worse instead of better,” he said. “They can’t do anything to stop it.”
Freel and Stutler said they can live with the current ditch if the water can’t be diverted from it. They want the ditch straightened and lined with material to prevent further damage to their land and sewer lines.
Freel said he lost a huge elm tree and he can’t get to his property across the ditch because any bridge built over it washes out. Parts of the yards affected by the drainage are never well maintained as a result of the poor access and consistent muddiness of the land from oversaturation, he said.
Stutler said he has complained to the last three Vine Grove mayors, including sending a letter explaining the situations to former Mayor Donovan Smith in May 2009. The letter was signed by the residents of 14 affected homes.
“I’m hoping I can make this better for someone else,” he said. “Also, I paid money, and I don’t want to lose that land.”
Radcliff Mayor J.J. Duvall said he has fielded calls about the issue and he and Proffitt have scheduled a meeting to view the ditch and see what should be done.
Proffitt said he and Duvall have been trying to arrange the meeting for about a month because any solution will take the combined planning of Vine Grove, Radcliff and Hardin County Schools to correct.
“We’re trying to make sure that we don’t fix the symptoms, we fix the cause,” he said.
Proffitt said he inherited the problem when he took office in January and has discussed it with city engineers.
“We’re going to make sure that it gets fixed and gets fixed properly,” he said.
It takes a steady rain to send water gushing through the ditch.
Resident Sheila Newman said the four inches of rain earlier this month overflowed the embankment.
What was a good place to grow a garden when she moved in 21 years ago now is only a place where some of her trees have died and her bridge has been washed out, Newman said.
“It’s just a swamp back there,” she said. “It can’t even be used most of the time because it stays so wet.”
Resident Reuben Sublett put bales of hay at the top of his hill to save his land from erosion. He said it hasn’t helped and he has lost a couple of trees.
The situation is frustrating, he said.
“I think something needs to be done,” he said. “It can’t be avoided. It’s not going to go away. It’s just going to get worse.”
Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or firstname.lastname@example.org.