Drainage from land disturbed by mining and road construction has caused acid levels to rise beyond acceptable levels in portions of at least 35 streams across the state, killing fish and insects.
PIKEVILLE, Ky. Drainage from land disturbed by mining and road construction has caused acid levels to rise beyond acceptable levels in portions of at least 35 streams across the state, killing fish and insects.
That finding is part of a report by the Kentucky Division of Water, which is trying to prevent the acid drainage so that the streams might once again support aquatic life.
Acid drainage is especially of concern in areas where coal and shale have been unearthed, said Andrea M. Fredenburg, environmental control supervisor in the Division of Water.
"When those layers are exposed to water, we get the problem," she said.
Most of the streams with high acid levels are in the coalfields. For example, seven streams in McCreary County in southeastern Kentucky have been affected as have five streams in Muhlenberg County. The list is expected to grow when acid levels are tested in streams in the Big Sandy River watershed, where coal mining is widespread.
Other counties that had streams on the impacted list were Bell, Clay, Hancock, Harlan, Hopkins, Knox, Letcher, Marion, McLean, Ohio and Pulaski.
Maleva Chamberlain, spokeswoman for the Division of Water, said the list of streams is part of a water quality report that is sent to Congress every two years as required by the federal Clean Water Act.
All streams deemed unfit for fishing or swimming because of pollution are included in the report. In Kentucky, the most common reason streams make the list is because of high concentrations of fecal coliform bacteria, which comes from animal and human waste.
In eastern Kentucky, authorities blame the high bacteria concentration on so-called straight pipes, used by some people to flush commodes directly into streams without the benefit of septic tanks and sewage treatment plants.
Chamberlain said the Division of Water doesn't stop after determining that a stream is polluted, whether by bacteria or acid drainage.
"We looked at where it is coming from, and now we look at how we are going to stop it," she said.
Source: Associated Press