water

Ohio River Regulators Planning Riverwide PFAS Study

Feb 5, 2020
Ryan Van Velzer

Scientists are designing a new study to test for PFAS, so-called “forever chemicals”, along the entire length of the Ohio River. Concerns are mounting about PFAS contamination in drinking water systems along the Ohio Valley. Studies have shown the contaminants in the drinking water of dozens of cities.

The scientists work with a multi-state commission charged with overseeing water quality on the Ohio River known as the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO).

The commission’s work has always included monitoring pollution in the river and it makes sense to examine these emerging contaminants, executive director Richard Harrison said.


Kara Lofton/WVPB

The rain came hard and fast early on the morning of June 23, 2016. By 2 p.m., water was knee deep in Bill Bell’s appliance store on Main Street in Rainelle, a small town on the western edge of Greenbrier County, West Virginia. Bell began elevating the washing machines and dishwashers, thinking that would be enough. Within hours, he’d lose it all. Today, his shop is up and running once again, but the memory of the flood runs deep. 

“To be honest with you, everybody here sleeps on pins and needles when it calls for a big rain,” he says.


Alexandra Kanik

Just before dawn in January 2018, 27 barges were floating like a net along the banks of the Ohio River, downstream of the city of Pittsburgh. Instead of fish, the fleet caught chunks of ice that broke off in the warming, fast-moving waters as it waited for a tow through the nearby Emsworth Locks and Dams.

The area had experienced record rainfall, and the river rose more than 12 feet in about 30 hours. The barges, some loaded with coal and cement, were lashed together with steel cables in a grid-like pattern, then secured to pilings equipped with large metal mooring rings.


Ryan Van Velzer

Half of all the public drinking water systems tested in a new report from the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet are showing evidence of PFAS contamination.

These chemicals belong to a class of more than 5,000 compounds often called “forever chemicals” and are known to increase the risk of cancer, among other health problems.

Researchers found the highest levels and the highest rates of detection in drinking water systems that pulled from waters connected to the Ohio River. State officials say that’s most likely because of the amount of industry near the waterway. In Louisville, researchers detected three PFAS compounds at two different water treatment plants, according to the report.

Jasper Davis stoops to tilt a plastic bottle under a drip of water that's trickling from a crack in the mountainside.

"Tastes better than what the city water does," he says. "Way better."

The spring is innocuous, a mere dribble emerging from a cliff face that was cut out to make room for a four-lane highway. But there's evidence of frequent visitors. A small footbridge has been placed over the muddy ground, and some enterprising soul shoved a rubber tube into the mountain to make filling jugs easier.

Erica Peterson

It’s in food packaging, non-stick pans, paint, cleaning products and firefighting foams.

It’s likely in your blood. It’s probably in my blood. And if it wasn’t there before, it could be there now. That is, if you’re drinking Louisville tap water.

The Environmental Working Group, an organization that tracks environmental pollutants in consumer products, found 10 PFAS compounds in a sample of Louisville drinking water taken from a home in July, according to data from the group.

Report: Water Is Unaffordable For Nearly Half Of Residents In Martin County

Sep 30, 2019
Benny Becker

A new report finds nearly half the residents of Martin County, Kentucky, cannot afford water service. Local activists with the Martin County Concerned Citizens are ringing alarm bells about water affordability as the beleaguered county faces another likely water rate increase in the coming months.

Since the ReSource first reported on its water crisis two years ago, Martin County has become the prime example of rural communities struggling to maintain aging water systems.

 


Blue-Green Algae Advisories At 10 Indiana Lakes

Aug 14, 2019
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

High levels of blue-green algae are currently triggering recreational alerts at 10 lakes in Indiana this summer, according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

The algae has rarely been toxic to humans in Indiana, but even small amounts of the toxins can be dangerous for pets, said Cyndi Wagner with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

“Even in those small amounts, if a dog drinks enough of the water they could succumb to the effects of the toxin and the toxins — there are four different ones — some of them are neurotoxins and some of them are liver toxins,” Wagner said.

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.”


Bourbon Plume Reaches Louisville’s Drinking Water

Jul 10, 2019
Ashlie Stevens/WFPL

The bourbon plume from last week’s Jim Beam warehouse fire has floated to Louisville’s drinking water intake in the Ohio River.

The Louisville Water Company says the city’s drinking water supply is safe, but the utility has adjusted its treatment strategy to protect the taste of the water and absorb any lingering odors.

“So Louisville Water has added a little bit of extra carbon to our water. Customers will not notice a difference at all,” said spokeswoman Kelley Dearing Smith.

Becca Schimmel

If you don’t know exactly where the Tompkinsville water plant is you probably won’t be able to find it.

I drive past a high school, over a bridge and take a left into a narrow driveway. Down the hill, a small gray building comes into view. Walking up the road is Jonathan Shaw, the supervisor of this small water plant. He said he’s proud to be the one responsible for delivering clean, potable water to the people of Tompkinsville.

 

“I tell people all the time...I say I’m the water boy,” Shaw said.  


Becca Schimmel

The screen door of a now vacant house swings open on a windy but sunny day on Wyndcrest Drive in Daviess County.

 

The large front window of a place one couple called home for 50 years is gone. Inside sits a single chair and some forgotten decorations on the wall. This house is in the middle of an area prone to repetitive flooding.

 

Daviess County Emergency Management Director Andy Ball has another name for it.

 

“This is what we like to refer to, us and the county engineer, as the 'cereal bowl' of the neighborhood,” he said. “This is where all water, once it starts slowing down and backs up...this is where it all kind of flows out of the creek. This is the worst area down here.”


JAGA / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

A multi-state commission charged with protecting the Ohio River decided Thursday to postpone a decision to dramatically alter pollution controls.

The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, or ORSANCO, has been considering a proposal that would reduce its oversight of water pollution control standards along the Ohio River. The proposal, called "option 2" would eliminate the body's water pollution control standards for industrial and municipal wastewater discharges into the river.

Erica Peterson

For decades, Kentucky’s own coal stoked the fires that generated most of its electricity. And while some of those power plants have shut down or switched to natural gas, their legacy remains today in the leftover coal ash that’s stored all over the commonwealth.

Now, new data show the coal ash buried in landfills and submerged in ponds at many of these sites has contaminated local groundwater.


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.


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