water

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.


Benny Becker

A water system in eastern Kentucky that was on the verge of collapse could soon get much needed improvements. Many Martin County, Kentucky, residents were without water for long periods this winter. The crisis drew attention amid a national discussion about infrastructure priorities, and put a spotlight on the sort of water woes that are all too common throughout Appalachian coal country.

Now nearly $5 million in federal funding is on the way to patch up parts of the Martin County system. But the flow of federal money comes amid lingering concerns about management and spending by local officials, and questions about how Martin County’s water system got into such a state of disrepair.


Nicole Erwin

In the rich land of Christian County, wheat is milled for McDonald's biscuits, corn is turned into ethanol, and grazing cows support the state’s leading dairy. This is Kentucky’s breadbasket, and a river runs through it: the South Fork of Little River.

 

Second-generation farmer David Brame grows a little bit of everything here, including corn and wheat. The Little River lines his backyard.

 

 

Report Reveals Contaminants In “Legal” Water

Jul 26, 2017
Nicole Erwin

An environmental group’s new report shows a broad range of contaminants occur in many drinking water systems in the Ohio Valley, even though the water meets federal requirements. The research highlights the gap between what regulations require and what many scientists and health advocates recommend for safe drinking water.

The Environmental Working Group compiled the report from data it collected from more than 50,000 public water utilities across America. The EWG created a scale based on the most stringent health standards and latest science and research at one end (like the California health standards which are generally more protective of health), and federal guidelines at the other. The online tool EWG created shows where a water system’s detected level of contaminants falls in that range.


Henderson Water Utility

A new study has found that people who lived in the Ohio River Valley between 1991 and 2013 have higher levels of a chemical called PFOA in their bloodstream than the national average.

PFOA, also called C-8, is a toxic chemical that was used to make products including non-stick cookware for decades. Its impact on health is the subject of ongoing study; even small amounts are thought to cause larger body mass index in adults, negative responses to vaccines and smaller birth weight in babies.

PFOA was manufactured, among other places, at the DuPont plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia. That plant no longer uses PFOA, and as a result of a class action lawsuit and settlement, scientists found links between several types of cancers and PFOA exposure.

Wikimedia Commons

A new study gave Kentucky poor marks for the safety of its drinking water.

The Natural Resources Defense Council says the commonwealth has the tenth-highest number of offenses per capita

Violations ranged from high levels of arsenic and nitrates to failure to test or properly report contamination levels. The Courier Journal reported no other state in the nation had a larger percent of its population getting its water from utilities with at least one violation. The study was based on safe drinking water act violations, and the number of customers served by those utilities.

Indiana was twenty-second in total water quality offenses per capita, while Tennessee ranked twenty-third.

Patrick Ford

One of the Trump administration’s first moves once in office was to freeze all grants issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That move raised a lot of questions and a further directive limiting public statements from the EPA added to the confusion.

The freeze has since been lifted but the move brought attention to an overlooked part of the EPA’s work: a grants program that has pumped more than $3.6 billion into projects in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia over the past 20 years.

Benny Becker

On any given day in Martin County, Kentucky, the water system loses more water to leaks than it delivers to paying customers through their faucets. The water system is under a state investigation for the third time since 2002. Customers complain of frequent service interruptions and discolored water, and their bills come with a notice that drinking the water could increase the risk of cancer.

This is the state of infrastructure in a county that’s mined many millions of dollars worth of coal since the early 1900s, providing the power required for America’s industries and modern comforts. As with many coalfield communities, all the profit and advances the area’s laborers and natural resources made possible haven’t left much evidence of improvement in the local economy and infrastructure.

Erica Peterson

A new board to develop strategies for agricultural water use in Kentucky is closer to its first meeting.

The Kentucky Water Resources Board was created during this year’s General Assembly. The board was formed to provide state regulators with recommendations on water use efficiency, as well as develop a water conservation strategy for the state’s agricultural sector.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles supported the legislation and will serve on the newly-formed board. He says water is one of Kentucky’s greatest resources, and the board will focus on making sure the resource is managed responsibly into the future.

“I’m excited that Kentucky is playing a proactive role,” Quarles said. “We’re not reacting to a problem, we’re trying to get out in front of it so we can better align the needs of Kentuckians and balance those with production, agriculture and other industries.”