On December 11th, Garth Adams and Alex Beer visited Letcher County Central High School’s Outdoor Education Class and led a lesson on Best Management Practices (BMP’s) for local waterways. The BMP’s discussed were simple practices residents can carryout to positively impact the creek nearest their home and streams and rivers throughout the county.
Best Management Practices are effective and practical actions or behaviors for preventing or reducing water pollution. There are specific BMP’s based on land use and management. The BMP’s discussed with LCC’s Outdoor Ed students were practices that could be implemented by homeowners and residents throughout the county.
Below is a list of water-quality impairments with succinct explanations and relevant BMP’s to help mitigate the given problem. For further information and more in-depth explanations, visit: http://cumberlandriverbasin.org/icreek/.
Altered Streamside: Altered streamside negatively impacts instream and streamside habitat and destabilizes stream banks. Common causes of this type of impairment include the removal of trees from stream banks and/or the mowing of stream banks.
BMP: Allow for natural growth near waterways.
-Aluminum: Air pollution, surface runoff, and waste from mining and smelting process causes aluminum to seep into our waterways. While this can be tolerated in low concentrations, it can be extremely harmful to the ecosystem and people. In humans, high aluminum intake has been linked to degenerative brain disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
BMP: Allow for natural growth near waterways. If concerned, contact Headwaters, the EPA or the KY Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement.
-Dissolved Oxygen: In fast moving streams, rushing water is aerated by bubbles as water moves over rocks and falls. As this happens, streams are saturated with oxygen. Additionally, bacteria decompose organic waste, including leaves, grass clippings, dead plants and animals, animal droppings, and sewage, removing dissolved oxygen from the water when they breathe. Depleted dissolved oxygen in water restricts and at times, eliminates aquatic life. While some species of fish and aquatic insects can tolerate lower levels of oxygen for short periods, prolonged exposure impacts biological diversity.
BMP: Remove unused dams, pick up after pets, and compost or recycle yard debris.
-In-Stream Alteration: Refers to lost in-stream habitat due to human modification of a waterways bed, banks, or flow. Habitat alteration can disrupt native species reproductive cycle and harm living conditions, impacting biodiversity.
BMP: Allow for natural growth near waterways, remove unused dams, reduce paved/impervious surfaces, and plant rain gardens.
-Iron: Excessive amounts of iron in waterways can be extremely harmful. At varying levels it becomes toxic to different forms of aquatic life. Too much iron can also cause algae blooms, resulting in lowered dissolved oxygen. This can cause fish kills and even produce neurotoxins.
BMP: Allow natural vegetation growth along waterways, and reduce paved surfaces. Incase of AMD (Acid Mine Drainage), contact Headwaters, EPA or KY Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement.
-Nutrients: The main sources of nutrient impairments are over-fertilized agricultural lands, and lawns and gardens. Increased nutrient concentrations cause toxic algae blooms in water bodies. These blooms can ruin swimming and boating opportunities, and kill fish and aquatic life by removing oxygen from the water.
BMP: Allow for natural growth near waterways, limit fertilizers, plant rain gardens, and support public funding of water treatment plants and sewer infrastructure.
-Oil & Grease: Fuels, motor oil, lubricating oil, hydraulic oil, cooking oil, and animal-derived fats. These oils and fats create a chemical oxygen demand and reduces aquatic organisms ability to reproduce and survive.
BMP: Allow natural vegetation growth along waterways, plant rain gardens, and reduce paved surfaces, and be mindful of disposal of oil and grease.
-Pathogens: Pathogen presence indicates the water is contaminated by human or animal waste. They enter waterways through sewer overflows, leaking sewer lines, and yard waste. People who come in contact with pathogens can suffer headaches, diarrhea, cramps, and nausea.
BMP: Allow natural vegetation growth near waterways, pick up after pets, and plant rain gardens.
-pH: pH is a measure of the relative amount of hydrogen and hydroxide ions in water. Acidic conditions can impact aquatic life.
BMP: Allow for natural growth near waterways, reduce paved/impervious surfaces, or contact Headwaters, the EPA, or Kentucky Division of Water.
-Siltation: Silt is the dirt, soil, or sediment that is carried and deposited by water. Siltation clogs fish gills, and smothers eggs and nests in water. It can also burry aquatic insects and their habitat, which impacts all organisms in the food chain.
BMP: Allow natural vegetation growth near waterways, plant rain gardens, reduce paved surfaces, and limit fertilizer and pesticide use.
-Sludge: When stress is placed on water treatment plants, untreated sewage can be released. Sewage is filled with pathogens, which can lower dissolved oxygen and raise the temperature of the ecosystem.
BMP: Allow for natural growth near waterways, plant rain gardens, pick up after your pets, and support public funding of water treatment plants and sewer infrastructure.
-Specific Conductance: This is a measure of how well water conducts electricity. High conductivity indicates high amounts of ions in the water, causing harm to aquatic ecosystems. Ions can range from chlorides, agricultural phosphates and nitrates, and iron, sulfate, copper, cadmium, arsenic, and others stemming from mine drainage.
BMP: Allow for natural growth near waterways, reduce paved/impervious surfaces, or contact Headwaters, EPA and/or the KY Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement.
-Sulfates: Sulfates are compounds containing sulfur that naturally cycle throughout the environment as part of natural biogeochemical cycles. In excess, sulfates promote the conversion of mercury, and stimulate sediments to release nutrients, causing eutrophication.
BMP: Allow for natural growth near waterways, limit fertilizers, plant rain gardens, and reduce paved/impervious surfaces.
-Temperature: Temperature can be a critical but is an often overlooked factor in the health of many aquatic environments. An increase in the temperature of water can interrupt enzyme activity in many organisms or exceed the tolerance limits of some, killing some aquatic species.
BMP: Allow for natural growth near waterways, plant rain gardens, pick up after your pets, and removed unused dams.
-Total Dissolved Solids: Or (TDS) indicates the amount of ions, including salts and metals, dissolved in a certain amount of water. Above certain levels TDS can be detrimental to ecosystems. Human-caused sources of high TDS are common and include agricultural/pesticide runoff, sewage discharge, or increased salinity from deicing salts.
BMP: Use non toxic deicing methods, allow for natural growth near waterways, plant rain gardens, reduce paved/impervious surfaces, and limit fertilizer and pesticide use. The best way to lower TDS levels of local creeks and rivers is by prevention.