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Harmful pollution found in Letcher County streams

By: Matthew Rand Email
By: Matthew Rand Email

WHITESBURG, Ky. (WYMT) - A new report shows a number of streams in Letcher County have high levels of pollution.

Researchers say the contamination could be dangerous to people.

It looks like orange gunk coating the bottom of this stream.

That gunk, researchers say, is made up of heavy metals polluting streams in Letcher County.

One stream was found to be very close to exceeding Kentucky drinking water standards for arsenic.

"We also found a couple other streams in the county tested for close to the same amount in zinc, nickel and lead, and all of those metals in high amounts can be very toxic to the human body," said researcher Tarence Ray with Headwaters, Inc.

The study looked at runoff from old mining operations, as well as other sources and found heavy metals getting into the water supply.

Water quality experts say that can be dangerous for both wildlife and people.

Every soil sample the research team took came back with pollution levels above federal and state guidelines.

County officials say they are aware of the problem, and say something needs to be done.

"We need to start looking at ways to correct some of it, you know I think we've studied it long enough, and look at some ways to correct it," said Letcher County Judge-Executive Jim Ward.

Researchers say abandoned mine lands funding is available to help make the streams cleaner.

The water pollution researchers found in Letcher County is downstream from where the city of Whitesburg gets its water, but they say it could pose a threat to other communities.


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