Kentucky River (67 Miles) Impaired by Mercury



The 2008 Integrated Report on the condition of Kentucky’s streams and waterways was recently released by the Kentucky Division of Water (KDOW).  While monitoring results for all of the Commonwealth’s water bodies were reported during this two-year cycle, the Kentucky River Basin was one of the primary focuses of this 2008 reporting cycle.

A review of the monitoring results from the 2008 report for waters within the Kentucky River watershed show area waters to be typically impaired by fecal coli form, e-coli, eutrophication and sedimentation/siltation and other biological indicators.  But, perhaps of most concern, is that the 2008 Integrated Report lists 67 river miles of the Kentucky River, starting in Estill County (56 miles) to Owen County (another 11 miles) as impaired by methyl mercury (p.76).

Considering that methyl mercury (like lead) is a potent neurotoxin, the Kentucky Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) recently asked for clarification and more information from KDOW on this matter. During May of this year, mercury impairment levels were discussed via a teleconference session and at the May 28 EQC open forum with KDOW regulators.

Considering the number of river miles involved and the type of contaminant, the Kentucky State Environmental Quality Commission has placed this issue on its agenda for its November meetings. KDOW regulators will be invited, as well as members from the 2004/2005 Special Taskforce on Mercury. EQC meetings are open to the public and members of the Kentucky RIVERKEEPER and other stakeholders are encouraged to attend to discuss these results on mercury from the 2008 Integrated Report.

 By Stephanie McSpirit, Ph.D.
Board Member, Kentucky State Environmental Quality Commission

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