On Tuesday, November 15th, Kentucky Community and Technical College and Eastern Kentucky University students participated in a web conference to review and present water quality findings from the Big Dip Redux sampling event. The Big Dip Redux took place in September of this year when streams throughout southeastern Kentucky were sampled by students and community members. Since the event, various students have performed data analysis and reviewed community surveys that have led to the presentations on Tuesday.
Under the guidance of Jenny Williams of KCTC and Alice Jones of EKU, students compared 2016 samples to the original Big Dip samples taken in 2006; hypothesized changes in samples; and discussed possible causes of water quality impairments such as mining, litter, and lack of adequate sewer infrastructure.
General takeaways from student presentations and discussions included the need to further examine findings and any relationships to 2006 data- why did some sites get better or worse? Aside from this, students discussed how they found local community members to be largely aware of poor water quality and its health impacts but not necessarily knowledgeable of exactly what causes water quality impairments in various areas or in municipal water treatment. Surveys carried out by students found that many community members expressed a lack of agency in regard to improving water quality; community members identified that they did not know how to go about addressing the issue of water quality.
Over the next several months further student research and assessment of sites in Perry and Letcher counties will be carried out. In addition to further analysis, there is potential for this water sampling event and subsequent student research to become an annual or even biannual project. This event and student research has been extremely beneficial in terms of spurring critical thought, raising awareness, and increasing dialogue surrounding water quality. Student findings are helpful for watershed advocacy and groups like Headwaters as water quality improvement efforts move forward.