Six years ago, the Big Sandy River was ranked as one of the most endangered rivers in the nation. Today, officials from three states signed a water quality agreement to protect the river basin and watershed.
From the scenic overlook at Breaks Interstate Park, the natural beauty of the mountains and the river overshadows what lies beneath. Through research, the Big Sandy River Basin Coalition found sedimentation, mine waste water and straight pipes pouring raw sewage into the water source.
"There are 886 miles of impaired waters in Virginia alone in the watershed," said Preston Bryant, Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources.
The basin spreads across more than one and half million acres of Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia so when it comes to testing and cleaning it up, soil and water conservation districts in each state couldn't do much on their own.
"You can only go down so far and then you've got a gap. You can't touch because it belongs to Kentucky," said Edna Justus with the Virginia Soil & Water Conservation.
With the help of the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, or ORSANCO, coalition members and representatives for each of the three governors signed an interstate water quality agreement.
"If you share resources, if you all put in a modest amount of money, all of the sudden it becomes a significant amount of money," said ORSANCO Executive Director Alan Vicory.
A big part of that plan is to install more de-centralized sewer systems for people living in the area and designing a monitoring system for the watershed's problems and solutions.
For more information about the Big Sandy River Basin Coalition or to become a member, log onto http://kywater.org/bsr--please.