Basin Success Stories

Much of the following presentation was contributed to a report by Watershed Watch in Kentucky, Inc., Basin Success Stories, September 30, 2014. That full document can be viewed by clicking here.

Community Projects and Partnerships

The Upper Cumberland River Watershed Watch (UCWW) has worked collaboratively with local educational and governmental institutions. Somerset Community College, which is part of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, is an important partner for UCWW. It provides support in the form of laboratory space for training and for the analysis of water quality samples; meeting rooms for annual watershed protection conferences; and duplication and mailing services to communicate information about and to send sampling materials to UCWW volunteers. Most importantly, Somerset Community College donates the time and talent of faculty members, Loris and Gary Sherman, who have led UCWW since its inception. UCWW has also relied on the McCreary County Water District, which provided bacterial and chemical analysis for several years.

Sloan’s Valley Cave System – A large portion of Pulaski County is karst area and is underlain by the extensive Sloan’s Valley Cave System. This karst area presents unique opportunities and challenges to detect the presence and impact of pollutants and to identify potential sources of those pollutants. An effort developed and led by a volunteer who was associated with the Appalachian Science in the Public Interest, based in the town of Mount Vernon, reached out to cavers to develop sampling points that were both within the cave system and where water emerged to the surface.

Buck Creek Study – Volunteers conducted a focus study on Buck Creek, portions of which are recognized as an Outstanding State Resource Water in Pulaski County. The volunteers sampled over 50 sites for fecal coliform and fecal strep contamination in Fall 2001.  Science Advisors worked with representatives from the Pulaski Co. Conservation District to design a study plan for the stream to include testing for nutrients, herbicides and pathogens from agricultural impacts.

Coal Slurry Impoundment – In the aftermath of the Martin County Coal Slurry Spill of 250 million gallons of liquid waste from coal processing, the UCWW Steering Committee authorized research on the potential for similar events in the Upper Cumberland watershed.

Cumberland County – A volunteer from UCWW conducted a focus study to determine nutrient and coliform levels at three sites on Allen Creek and one site on Leatherwood Creek in Cumberland County. Results led to identifying impacts by cattle and poultry farm animals in the watershed.

Regional Projects and Partnerships

Brushy Creek – UCWW is a supporting organization for the biologists of the Pulaski County Conservation District as they attempt to complete Phase II of the Brushy Creek Watershed Project. Phase II of the Brushy Creek Watershed project is an important component of a comprehensive plan to protect the quality of the watershed and to provide fishable and swimmable water for local residents. Through the implementation of best management practices for both agricultural and residential wastewater, and by conducting education and outreach activities in the area, the project will help foster future benefits for the watershed and its inhabitants. Phase I of the project for Brushy Creek Watershed supported UCWW findings that field chemistry indicated good water conditions, but E. coli was frequently present in numbers greater than 240 cfu/100 ml.

Endocrine Disrupting Compounds in the Upper Cumberland Basin – From 2003 through 2005 water samples collected by volunteers of the UCWW were analyzed for 17 β estradiol. This hormone, when used as a medical therapeutic, may be excreted by humans and find its way into surface waters via wastewater treatment systems. The hormone is also commonly excreted by livestock and seems especially abundant in poultry waste. Basin-wide sampling showed three hotspots where levels from 3 to 6 nanograms per liter (ng/L) were detected: Allen’s Creek in Cumberland County and in Pulaski County’s Clear Creek and Poynter’s Creek.

Educational Outreach

During the 15-year history of UCWW, there have been as many as 120 active volunteer samplers, with 70 volunteers participating in one annual conference. During the July 2013 sampling event, 14 volunteer samplers participated.    Volunteers are sent the results of their sampling activities so that they can then communicate the results of their sampling activities and comment about possible errors.

UCWW participates in the annual Somerset Community College/East Kentucky PRIDE Earth Day Celebration where they promote their program by demonstrating macro-invertebrate assay techniques, and by discussing the sources of water impacts and best practices for protecting waters in the basin.

UCWW has presented their work at meetings of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and held at the Pulaski County Library. These meetings are open to the public.

In 2008, anticipating the increasing importance of expanded habitat and biological assessments, UCWW sought and received support from the World Wildlife Fund to provide detailed training and additional equipment for volunteers to develop their skills in completing habitat and biological assessments.

In addition to the annual watershed protection conferences, results from the UCWW’s basin-wide sampling efforts have been presented in state and regional forums, including the Kentucky Academy of Science and at a regional conference on Assessment of Water Quality Trends in the Upper Cumberland River Basin.

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