Text Good River: Our Reporters Want To Hear Your Ohio River Stories And Concerns Friday, Nov 1 2019 

Text “OHIO” to 859-208-2408 to share with our seven-newsroom collaborative.

WFPL is teaming up with six other news organizations to cover what might be the most under-appreciated water asset in the country: the Ohio River. The Ohio River provides drinking water for five million people, and it’s a thoroughfare of business, supporting jobs and communities. But it’s also among the most polluted rivers in the country.

Alexandra Kanik | wfpl.org

The project “Good River: Stories of the Ohio” will delve into the past, present and future of this river and its region. We aim to inform and surprise you at the same time. Our journalism will share with you the beauty of the Ohio River and its watershed as well as the threats to water quality and wildlife.

You can help our coalition of seven newsrooms — PublicSource, Allegheny Front, 100 Days in Appalachia, Louisville Public Media, The Ohio Center for Investigative Journalism, Belt Magazine, and Environmental Health News — tell stories that envision a better future for the Ohio.

The project will launch Nov. 14, but you can start participating now!

Here’s how it works:

  1. Text “OHIO” to 859-208-2408. (Note that standard message rates apply and you can opt out anytime by texting STOP.)
  2. Follow the prompts to introduce yourself to us.
  3. Share your story, tip, concern, question or photo with us.
  4. We’ll text you with questions and information in return. (You can opt out easily if you find you’re flooded with info.)
  5. Thanks!

Bourbon And Dead Fish Nearly Polluted This Ky. County’s Water Supply Wednesday, Jul 17 2019 

As nearly 10,000 people descended on the small town of Owenton, Kentucky, for the annual county fair earlier this month, so too did the miles-long bourbon plume leftover from the fire at the Jim Beam warehouse upriver from the drinking water supply.

In the wake of the bourbon spill, thousands of fish died as dissolved oxygen levels plummeted in the Kentucky River.

But when Owen County residents turned on their taps, nothing but cool clean water came out.

Lightning struck the Jim Beam warehouse two days before July 4 setting aflame 45,000 barrels of bourbon and sending alcohol and ash into nearby waterways.

The next day, Owen County Judge Executive Casey Ellis received a call from Kentucky American Water.

“The morning after the incident I received a call,” Ellis said. “She was just giving us an update on what happened and what might happen.”

The plume reached Frankfort first. There, residents reported drinking water tainted with foul odors, though state officials reassured locals the supply was safe to drink.

That lead time gave Kentucky American Water enough time to consider its  options. Utility officials decided to seal off the intake on the Kentucky River, said Susan Lancho, spokeswoman.

“And so basically what we were able to do was turn off the treatment plant located right there on the Owen County line and wait for that plume to pass and so none of the water from the fire ever entered our plant,” she said.

The Owenton Water Treatment Plant sat idle for about three days as the bourbon plume passed through on its way to the Ohio River, Lancho said.

In the meantime, Owenton arranged for water delivery with emergency management.

“You know, we were just worried about the supply here,” Ellis said.

Fortunately, that was an unnecessary precaution.

Kentucky American Water reversed the flow on a 31-mile-long pipe that stretches from Owen County to a central distribution system in the Lexington/Fayette County area.

It just so happens Owenton sits at a lower elevation than Lexington. Ordinarily, that means the treatment plant pumps water uphill, but this time gravity took its course.

“Since it was gravity fed all they had to do was bypass the pumps,” said Terry Humphries, environmental engineering supervisor at the Energy and Environment Cabinet’s Division of Water.

The 3,700 Kentucky American Water customers of Owenton and all those who arrived for the county fair’s popular demolition derby were none the wiser.

“Our focus is maintaining great quality water service for our customers and that’s what we were able to do,” Lancho said.