Thursday, December 1, 2011

Environment agency seeking comments on bacterial pollution of South Elkhorn Creek

The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet is seeking public comment until Jan. 2 on a draft report on bacterial pollution in nine stream segments and two springs in the South Elkhorn Creek watershed, including some in and near Midway.

One stream segment is the last mile of Lee Branch, which flows through Midway. It is polluted with fecal colifrm bacteria, presumably from livestock farms and the City of Midway sewage-treatment plant. Almost all of South Elkhorn Creek, which forms the northeast boundary of Woodford County, is similarly contaminated for those and similar reasons, the report says.

The Midway treatment plant's permit allows its discharge to contain 200 fecal coliform colonies for every 100 milliliters of water. The report says the plant's average from 1983 to 2003 was 43 colonies per 100 ml.

The federal Clean Water Act requires the state to identify waters where designated uses are not being met and water quality impairments exist, and to prioritize the list of impaired waters, calculate a total maximum daily load (TMDL) of pollutants for those waters and devise plans to improve the water quality. A TMDL is a calculated amount of pollutants a particular water body may contain and remain unimpaired for its designated use.

The report by the state Division of Water addresses bacterial pollution in the South Elkhorn Creek watershed at levels that makes the streams unsuitable for swimming. The report includes data and procedures used to calculate the TMDL for the stream segments. Revisions to the report may be made following the public comment period and before it is sent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for approval.

The report may be viewed on the Division of Water website here. (It's a 277-page PDF that may take a while to load if your connection is slow.) Comments should be sent in writing to Eric Liebenauer, Division of Water, 200 Fair Oaks Lane, Frankfort, KY 40601, or by e-mail to eric.liebenauer@ky.gov.

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