Swimming Advisories Posted Along A River

By: Jeff Allen Email
By: Jeff Allen Email

It's a river that runs right through many parts of eastern Kentucky, but much of it is unusable.

Raw sewage in the water is forcing the state to keep swimming advisories in place on much of the Cumberland River.

Why is the problem continuing and what's being done to stop it?

WYMT's Jeff Allen went to one of the biggest problem spots.

The community of Sunshine is one of many in eastern Kentucky where sewage still flows from many homes right into the Cumberland River.

Officials are trying to stop that, but they say some people still aren't cooperating.

People living there are frustrated.

“If they don't get it cleaned up soon I guess we won't ever be able to use the river anymore like when I was a kid,” David Napier said.

David Napier says he used to eat the fish he'd catch from the Cumberland, but now he can't even fish out of it.

One of the main problems is raw sewage. For years it's flowed from homes here in Sunshine right into the river.

The city of Harlan installed sewer lines and about sixty percent of the community is hooked on, but the other forty percent refuse to.

“This is not acceptable behavior until we can find an agency willing to enforce it we're just marking time,” Harlan Mayor Daniel Howard said.

Harlan Mayor Daniel Howard says state agencies are the only ones that can actually force people to get rid of straight pipes.

A state water official says they require new houses to be hooked up to a sewer, but it's harder to force older homes to hook on.

They say they are seeing some improvement in the water in the last couple of years.

State water officials say they will survey many parts of the Cumberland River this summer

For now, they've posted several swimming advisories.

Here are some tips.

1. Do not swim when you have diarrhea.

2. Do not swallow pool water or get pool water in your mouth.

3. Shower before swimming and have your children shower.

4. Wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.

5. Take children on bathroom breaks or change diapers often.

6. Change children’s diapers in a bathroom, not at poolside.

Swimmers should also heed swimming advisories issued to protect the public from contaminants in some areas of Kentucky waterways. The Division of Water and the Division of Public Health Protection and Safety agree advisories issued last summer will remain in effect due to high levels of E. coli.

People should avoid swimming and other recreational contact with waters in the areas specified because of the bacteria, which occur in human and animal waste and indicate the presence of untreated or inadequately treated sewage. Swimming advisories will remain in effect for the following:

Upper Cumberland River
· The Cumberland River from Fourmile Bridge (Highway 2014) to Pineville at the Highway 66 Bridge and from Wallins Creek Bridge (Highway 219) to Harlan.

· Martins Fork from Harlan to the Cawood Water Plant.

· All of Catron Creek, all of Clover Fork and all of Straight Creek.

· Poor Fork from Harlan to Looney Creek.

· Looney Creek from the mouth to Lynch Water Plant Bridge.

Illegal straight pipe discharges, failing septic systems and bypasses from sewage collection systems contribute to water quality problems in these areas.

Kentucky River
· North Fork of the Kentucky River upstream of Chavies.

Numerous illegal straight pipe discharges of sewage contribute to water quality problems along this section of the river. However, water quality has continued to improve and is approaching an acceptable level for swimming in some stretches of the river.

Licking River
· Banklick Creek to its confluence with the Ohio River.

The swimming advisory includes all of Banklick Creek and Three Mile Creek. High E. coli levels in this area are caused by combined sewer overflows and sanitary sewer overflows.

Residential and agricultural areas
The agencies also recommend against swimming or other full-body contact with all surface waters immediately following heavy rain, especially in dense residential, urban and livestock production areas. This recommendation is due to an increased potential for exposure to pollution from urban nonpoint source pollution, bypasses from sewage collection systems, combined sewer overflows and runoff from livestock waste.

State and local agencies continue efforts to reduce E. coli levels. The Cabinet for Health and Family Services works with local health department environmental health staff to ensure that all new septic system installations are properly installed. Division of Water staff work with wastewater plant operators to ensure sewer overflows are minimized. Both agencies routinely address straight pipe issues and are gradually reducing the number of these discharges across the state.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Lisa Location: Prestonsburg on Jun 6, 2008 at 06:20 PM
    I think they should offer more grants so the low to very low income people will be able to have a septic system installed. I know my Grandmother got some sort of grant from Pride (maybe?) and had one installed. it's a real life saver to those who can't afford it. I would say thats why 40% isn't cooperating. Not because they don't want to but because they just cannot afford to.
  • by Mary Location: L on Jun 4, 2008 at 10:04 PM
    I agree with James as to his reply to Blacksheep and I would also like to add the same message to Shane for calling us Rednecks. Sounds like both of you live in Ky. Are you both rednecks and ignorants? I live in Ky. and I am very proud of it. I have traveled all over the US and NOWHERE is there such beauty as you will find in these mountains. Some of these people may not be financially able to hook onto the sewer or have a septic installed. There was a government sponsered program that Hal Rogers helped get through and it helped finance, with low interest rates, to help low income people get a septic installed but the program got cut after about two years of operation. It was being a great success in our county. NO ONE should be allowed to run sewers into our streams and no business should be allowed to dispose of their waste in our streams either but yet they do this. This program needs to be restarted so these people can financially be able to legally install a septic.
  • by jon Location: pike on Jun 4, 2008 at 07:21 PM
    Yes my mother had a trailer lot for rent. The health dept. drove thru raw sewage in the road 1/2 mile before they got to her house. Then told her she could not rent it because they did not have any record of a septic tank there. Thank goodness she had kept the records from 1 year before, when she got the permit to install it from the health dept. Why will they not enforce the law and stop the people from dumping this stuff in the water.
  • by James Location: Eastern Ky. on Jun 4, 2008 at 06:00 PM
    This is addressed to "Blacksheep" How dare you make a statment like that about the people in Eastern Ky. or anywhere else for that matter some of the finest people I know live in Ky. You first need to learn how to spell then you need to apoligize for you remarks. And from the way that I read your post you also live in Ky. So I think that makes YOU,the most ignorant of all the people that live in Eastern Ky.
  • by shane Location: lex. on Jun 4, 2008 at 08:01 AM
    Rednecks & coal = this mess, fine h--- out of them and it will STOP!
  • by jimmy .campbell Location: amarilllo ,tx on Jun 4, 2008 at 05:42 AM
    start the fines and a lot of people will start to fix it......
  • by BLACKSHEEP Location: EVERYWHERE on Jun 4, 2008 at 04:43 AM
    ARE YOU KIDDING ME, SOME PEOPLE HERE IN EASTERN KY ARE THE NASTIEST,DIRTIEST, AND THE STUPIDEST PEOPLE IN THE COUNTRY. THEY DOET CARE THAT THIER "STRAIGHT PIPES" OF RAW SEWAGE DUMPS THE THE LOCAL CREEKS, STREAMS, RIVERS, AND LAKES. I'VE BEEN TOLD THAT THE HEAD WATERS OF DEWEY LAKE IS FULL OF WHATEVER. IT IS LIKE WELFARE, THEY WHERE RAISED THAT WAY, AS LONG AS IT IS "OUT OF THEIR HOUSE" WHY WORRY ABOUT IT. I KNOW SOME PEOPLE WHERE THIER SEWAGE AND GRAY WATER RUNS OUT NEXT TO THE ROAD, IN THIER YARDS, AND IN SOME CASES RUNS ACROSS THE ROAD. NO ONE SEEMS TO CARE. IN THE NEWS REPORT, THE RIVER IS CLOSED TO SWIMMING AND FISHING NEAR A COUPLE OF WATER TREATMENT PLANTS!!! YOU MORONS SHOULD GET OUT THERE AND FORCE THESE "PEOPLE" TO CLEAN-UP THIER ACT!! INSPECT THEM EVERY FEW MONTHS, TO MAKE SURE THAT THEY ARE STILL HOOKED UP. EASTERN KENTUCKY IS THE NASTIEST PLACE TO LIVE AND YOU MORONS KEEP WANDERING WHY WE HAVE NO INDUSTRY HERE? JUST LOOK AROUND, WOULD YOU WANT YOUR BUSSINESS HERE???
  • by CRYSTAL Location: KNOTT CO. on Jun 3, 2008 at 06:53 PM
    Real sad how straight pipe systems have polluted our waterways. As a young child i would in the summer play,splash,wade, and dog pedel in large holes of water with no worry of sickness, well i mean we were allowed to. I think the main reason to them being cleaner then was 80to90% of households had outdoor johns(outhouses). O'L well that was the good O'L days.
  • by Wanting on Jun 3, 2008 at 05:58 PM
    Why don't the counties just hook everyone onto a sanitary sewer. Yes, it will cost plenty, but no more bad water in rivers. I would love to be able to hook up myself.

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