Reports and Data

Independent tests for diesel, gasoline and volatile organics conducted on February 19, 2009. These were in response to a spill in the North Fork of the Kentucky River and that led to contamination of the Whitesburg water system. Click here for test results from McCoy & McCoy labs. Click here for backup results from Environmental Monitoring Inc.

These are the PDF files of lab reports on samples taken by Headwaters Inc. on Thursday, February 19, 2009. Water samples were taken upstream of the spill site near the mouth of Pine Creek, downstream at the mouth of Cram Creek, taps at Letcher County Central High School, the Harry M. Caudill Library and Summit City Cafe. Those samples were tested at McCoy & McCoy Labs in Madisonville, Kentucky. Duplicate samples from the downstream site and the high school were taken to Environmental Monitoring Inc. in Norton, Va. EMI is not certified for drinking water in Kentucky.

The tests showed chemicals were below detection levels, except for chloroform and bromodichloromethane.

Independent tests for diesel and gasoline contamination in the North Fork of the Kentucky River, and Whitesburg, Blackey and Letcher County water systems

These are PDF files of lab reports on samples done by Headwaters Inc. (The Head of Three Rivers Project) on Thursday, Nov. 6, 2008. Contamination was discovered Nov. 1, and when the city announced on Nov. 5 that it might be another week before water was safe to use, we decided to do our own independent testing. After fundraising appeal, the Sierra Club Water Sentinels offered to pay our lab fees and several private citizens stepped up with additional contributions toward the effort.

Two sampling teams pulled grab samples from three locations in the North Fork — one upstream of the contamination site at Ermine, Ky., one approximately 100 yards downstream of the contamination site and one approximately 100 yards upstream of the Blackey water intake. We also took samples from taps at the Blackey Public Library, Letcher Elementary School, Isom IGA, Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation, The Courthouse Cafe, a residence in the Upper Bottom in Whitesburg, and Letcher County Central High School.

We are not confident of the gasoline results. McCoy and McCoy Laboratories provided the incorrect sampling bottles for the test, and the lab technician reporting the result says the tests are suspect because of that error. The test did detect something in the gasoline range, but the lab attributed it to THMs, which are formed as byproducts of water disinfection, however two samples showing the gasoline range detection were of untreated water from downstream of the contamination site (upstream of the Whitesburg water treatment plant).

Letcher County Acid Mine Drainage data as of July 2007 by Evan Smith (72 kb, .xls)

This excel file includes data from the first year of The Head of Three Rivers’ quarterly monitoring of known Acid Mine Drainage sites in Letcher County. There are currently 25 sites being monitored. Includes pH, conductivity, iron, temperature and other field parameters as well as lab analysis at some sites. As the data shows some sites are improving, some are getting worse, while others are not changing. This data is important for assessing the risks of AMD sites and planning future treatment systems.

2007 Letcher County Central Students Sampling Dry Fork Mine Drainage by Evan Smith (1.2 mb, .ppt)

This powerpoint has pictures and data from Spring of 2007 when Letcher County Central High School’s Investigative Science class sampled abandoned mine drainage on Dry Fork. This field trip was also documented by a slideshow shown on Letcher County Public Schools Television and a film shot by students from the Tisch shool of the Arts at NYU with the help of Appalshop the video is on YouTube and can be seen here.

2006 North Fork Headwaters KRWW Year End Presentation by Evan Smith (4.9 mb, .ppt)

This powerpoint presents the 2006 Kentucky River Watershed Watch Data for Letcher, Knott & Perry counties. Each parameter with worrisome results are examined with tables, maps, and information about water quality criteria and where East Kentucky sites stand in comparison. This includes data from the Spring, Summer, and Fall sampling events. This data is the product of dozens of volunteers and give us a good snapshot of where we’re at and the work that needs to be done.

Kentucky Watershed Viewer

The Kentucky Watershed Viewer is a very useful GIS-based online map service that allows you to navigate the Commonwealth and find assessments that the Division of Water has done. It also allows you to find permitted source point discharges and public water intakes. Another cool feature is that topographic maps and satellite imagery with road and stream layers intact are easily accessible by zooming into a selected area. There’s a bit of a learning curve to it though so be patient and try clicking around until you get the hang of it. Also to get info about an impaired stream, the cause & source codes are on these lists.

Cause Codes (760 kb, .jpg)

Source Codes (Page 1) (1.4 mb, .jpg)

Source Codes (Page 2) (1mb, .jpg)

(note these are scans of handouts and not in the most efficient format, but can be very helpful for understanding what the stream assessments mean)


Eastern Kentucky Environmental Research Institute (Head of Three Rivers Project)”The Big Dip” UVa-Wise Wetlands Symposium Powerpoint Presentation (70 mb, .ppt file) by Evan Smith, Dr. Alice Jones, Jeff Combs, & Michael Albright

The “Big Dip” was a diagnostic sampling of 917 headwaters streams in Southeastern Kentucky by 30 volunteers and 6 paid staff from the Eastern Kentucky Environmental Research Institute (including one OSM/VISTA and one OSM intern)  This was an interdisciplinary project integrating geography and chemistry to establish baseline data and facilitate topics for later study.   All sites were sampled for pH, conductivity, temperature, alkalinity, hardness, nitrite, nitrate, & iron and mapped using GPS units.  The resulting dataset was processed using GIS software to create visual models of datatrends and allow for further analysis.  In addition, 28 sites had a full metals sweep run via ICP to make it possible to draw correlations between parameters that were sampled and what other metals would likely be present.

This project proved to be a successful approach towards establishing baseline data and gaining a basic understanding of the geography of Acid Mine Drainage seeps and other sources of impairment. Among the 8 parameters examined, three stood out as potentially good indicators of stream health–conductivity, iron, and pH. All accessible streams in Letcher County were sampled along with streams in Knott, Perry, Leslie, Breathitt, & Harlan counties. Presented in Fall 2006.

NOTE: This file has been removed because of its large size. We are attempting to reduce the size to make it more usable, and it will be put back up in the near future, possibly as several smaller files.

Eastern Kentucky University “Headwaters Report” (4 mb, .pdf file) by Dr. Alan Banks, Dr. Alice Jones, & Dr. Anne Blakeney

The Headwaters Project was a multidisciplinary study conducted by the Center for Appalachian Studies at Eastern Kentucky University that studied water issues in Letcher County from 2001-2002. By incoporating socio-economic history, presenting water quality data visualisation models, and linking health problems and water quality, this report touches on many of the major issues relating to water quality. This document was the most significant motivating force for the Head of Three Rivers Project. Published in 2002

Appalachian Regional Commission “Drinking Water & Wastewater in Appalachia: Appendix E” (404 kb, .pdf file) by Gary A. O’Dell

Part of a much larger study about water & wastewater infrastructure in Appalachia, this appendix focuses on McDowell Co, WV & Letcher County, KY and talks about current efforts to serve the area with public water and sewer and how citizen involvement and activism led to the formation of the Letcher County Water & Sewer District. Published in 2005.

Kentucky Rural Water Association “Source Water Assessment and Protection Plan for Elkhorn Lake (City of Jenkins)” (12.9 mb, .doc file) by Jack Stickney

Although Elkhorn Lake was originally built by Consolidation Coal for beauty and a source of hydroelectricity for the early city of Jenkins, it has become a public water source for approximately 3,200 Letcher County residents. Compared to drawing water from the areas’ rivers, Elkhorn Lake is a good public water source but it does have risks. This document talks about these risks and suggests actions that can be taken by local citizens to protect their water supply. Prepared in 2005.

Content by Evan Smith, OSM/VISTA

Funded in part by:

The Kentucky River Authority

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