clean water

Bowling Green Municipal Utilities

Consumer response to the COVID-19 pandemic is causing problems for one local utility in Kentucky.  

An increase in the improper disposal of paper and other cleaning materials is taxing the water filtration system at Bowling Green Municipal Utilities.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, BGMU officials are reporting that the utility is seeing an increase of wipes, rags and other products improperly flushed into the wastewater pump stations.

Systems Manager Mike Gardner is asking the public to be aware that the increased waste can cause pipes to overflow into homes and public spaces, as well as causing serious damage to costly treatment pumps.  

He said crews are working full-time to mitigate the problem and that takes them away from routine maintenance.  


Nicole Erwin / Ohio Valley ReSource

Kentucky’s Public Service Commission released results of a months-long investigation into high rates of water loss in certain rural water districts. The findings point to systematic financial and managerial challenges facing rural districts, and solutions would likely require sweeping legislative change.

The PSC launched its investigation in March after 11 rural districts, most of them in eastern Kentucky, drew the commission’s attention for water loss rates exceeding 35 percent. High rates of water loss indicate leaky pipes, which in addition to raising a system’s operating costs, also expose customers to infiltration of untreated, potentially dangerous groundwater into the pipes.


Red Bird Mission

Communities across the Ohio Valley are among an estimated 2 million Americans that do not have consistent access to clean drinking water and basic indoor plumbing, according to a report published Monday by two nonprofits, DigDeep and the US Water Alliance.

The report titled, “Closing the Water Access Gap in the United States,” synthesized data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau, including its American Community Survey, to identify six areas of the country where access to clean water is lagging. That includes some communities in Appalachia, which the report lists among six “hot spots” for inadequate water access.

“From all the data sources we looked at, we know at least 2 million people in the U.S. don’t have access to running water or a working flush toilet,” said George McGraw, founder of DigDeep. “But we also know because of some errors with the census that the number is probably much higher than that.”


Flickr/Creative Commons/Joost Nelissen

Tap water delivered by more than 2,000 water systems across the Ohio Valley contain pollutants, many harmful to human health, even though they mostly meet federal drinking water standards. That’s according to a newly-updated database released by the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization. 

Millions of residents in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia are being exposed to small amounts of chemicals and contaminants, including those linked to cancer, the group found. 

“Just because your drinking water has passed federal standards or it gets a passing grade, it still might pose risks to your health,” said Tasha Stoiber, a senior scientist with EWG. 


Brittany Patterson

Janet Clayton is standing thigh-deep in a back channel of the Elk River. Clad in a wetsuit and knee pads, the silver-haired biologist with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources reaches into a bright orange mesh bag submerged in water.

Inside are a half dozen mussels she plucked from the rocky river bottom.

“This is called a long solid,” Clayton says. An earthy colored shell about the size of a computer mouse sits in the palm of her hand. “As it gets older it gets really long.”


Liam Niemeyer

West Liberty University Professor Zachary Loughman has dedicated his professional life to crustaceans – specifically freshwater crayfish. He dips his hand into one of the water tanks at his laboratory near Wheeling, West Virginia, to pick up a teal crayfish the size of a dollar bill.

“See the little guy dropping down? We caught mom and she had 300 babies. So we just let them grow,” Loughman said. “We’ve had our feet – my lab – in over 3000 rivers in the past ten years.”


Sydney Boles

Jason Walker spends $50 per month on bottled water. He spends three hours each week standing by the small stream that runs near his house, pumping creek water into a thousand-gallon tank.

“You have to catch the creek at the right time, when it’s clear,” Walker said. “Whatever you pump, whatever the creek looks like, is what you’re going to pump, and that’s going to pump right into your house.”

Walker, 31, used to get water from a well he shared with his mother, Sherry Walker, who lives next door. But they noticed changes after mountaintop removal mining started nearby.


Kimberly Shatney

Shortly after this story aired West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced that the state had secured federal funding needed to help Pine Grove finish a nearly $50,000 repair project for its failing sewer system.

According to a Thursday, May 31, news release from the governor’s office, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, confirmed final approval this week for a public assistance grant requested by Pine Grove. The $37,000 grant reflects a 75 percent cost share from FEMA. Pine Grove was among the communities included in a federal disaster declaration prompted by last summer’s flooding in north-central West Virginia.

Justice said a civil contingency fund under the governor’s control will provide the remaining 25 percent, or just over $12,000, for repairs at Pine Grove which include repairing units for dozens of individual property pump wells.