HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. - A southwestern Kentucky river is set to undergo testing and farmers and businesses could face more restrictions in an effort to reduce river pollution depending upon the result.
The United States Geological Survey will test the Little River, which runs through Trigg and Christian counties and flows into Lake Barkley. The last test of the river in 2001 resulted in the federal government classifying it as "impaired" because of the pollution levels.
Christian County Planning Director Steve Bourne told The Kentucky New Era that may people object to the 2001 test because it took place during high water flows, when there was greater runoff and potentially more pollution.
The Geological Survey will start later this year, gathering samples from 17 locations between October and September 2014. The results are expected by September 2015.
Brian Lacefield, who works for Hopkinsville Elevator Company and Agri-Chem, LLC, said new restrictions could result in a ban on fertilizers that farmers depend on.
"We all want to have safe waterways," he said. "We all want everything to be in good shape. But we don't want sweeping regulations that don't even correct the problem."
The Christian County Health Department will contribute $20,000 for a three-year test. Other public and private agencies will contribute as well. The test will cost $800,000. Hopkinsville's Surface and Stormwater Utility will contribute $221,025. Christian County Fiscal Court will vote soon on whether to contribute $10,000.
United States Geological Survey will contribute $400,000. Other funding will likely come from the Kentucky Agriculture Development fund and several farming organizations.
The 2001 test of Little River showed significant bacteria in the river. But it didn't determine whether the bacteria came from commercial fertilizers, livestock or wildlife feces, sewer runoff or another source, said Dr. Wade Northington, a veterinarian.
"The ag community is being blamed for some issues," Lacefield said. "If this is our problem, we will fix it. But first we need to know if it's our problem."
Lacefield is helping raise money for the project. When major water sources are polluted, it costs more to clean and filter the water for public consumption, Bourne said. Ultimately consumers pay this cost in the form of bills.
"It's a quality-of-life issue," Bourne said. "Clean water is a life source to any community."
This makes a thorough test of Little River crucial, Lacefield said. If pollutants are really entering the water, the first step toward eliminating them is pinpointing their sources.
"To be able to fix the problem, we have to know exactly what the problem is," Lacefield said.
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