Scientists could identify amount, sources of pollution
By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Eleven years after the last test, the federal government still has Little River classified as “impaired.”
And if nothing changes within six years, a government agency will impose more restrictions on local farmers and businesses, in an effort to reduce river pollution, said Brian Lacefield, who works for Hopkinsville Elevator Company and Agri-Chem, LLC. For instance, it could ban fertilizers that local farmers depend on, Lacefield said.
Farmers and local officials want a new test conducted. Some believe the 2001 test lacked thoroughness, and they say their farming practices have become more eco-friendly since the test.
To that end, the Christian County Health Department will contribute $20,000 for a three-year test that will start in October. The board of health voted unanimously to do this.
Other public and private agencies will contribute as well. Altogether the test will cost $800,000, according to a proposal summary distributed to the board of health’s members.
Hopkinsville’s Surface and Stormwater Utility will contribute $221,025, according to the materials. Christian County Fiscal Court will vote soon on whether to contribute $10,000.
United States Geological Survey, which will perform the test, has agreed to contribute $400,000. Other funding will likely come from the Kentucky Agriculture Development fund and several farming organizations.
The 2001 test of Little River showed significant bacteria in the river. But it didn’t determine whether that bacteria came from commercial fertilizers, livestock or wildlife feces, sewer runoff or another source, said Dr. Wade Northington, a veterinarian, at the Aug. 20 meeting.
“The ag community is being blamed for some issues,” Lacefield said. “If this is our problem, we will fix it. But first we need to know if it’s our problem.”
Steve Bourne, the county’s planning director, said many people in this area object to the 2001 test for two reasons: They consider it too hasty and say it occurred during a time of high flows, when there was greater runoff and potentially more pollution than normal.
Lacefield fears it’s spawning misguided regulations.
“We all want to have safe waterways,” he said. “We all want everything to be in good shape. But we don’t want sweeping regulations that don’t even correct the problem.”
Assuming the Geological Survey organization re-tests the river, it will gather samples from 17 locations between October 2012 and September 2014. The samples will go to labs for testing, and the results will come out by September 2015, according to the proposal.
Lacefield is helping raise money for the project. Though some of the agencies likely to donate money still need to make their promises official, Lacefield doesn’t doubt that the testing will start this fall.
When major water sources are polluted, it costs more to clean and filter the water for public consumption, Bourne said. Ultimately consumers pay this cost via their bills.
“It’s a quality-of-life issue,” Bourne said. “Clean water is a life source to any community.”
This makes a thorough test of Little River crucial, Lacefield said. If pollutants are really entering the water, the first step toward eliminating them is pinpointing their sources.
“To be able to fix the problem, we have to know exactly what the problem is,” he said.