Multiple streams in Letcher County show unsafe E. coli levels


For two years, a handful of organizations have been testing multiple streams in the North Fork of the Kentucky River watershed.

The findings show an unsafe amount of E. coli bacteria along with other issues.

“It’s definitely an educational project I would say,” said Caitlin Myers with the Headwaters Inc. Myers works as the watershed coordinator for the non-profit. The group is based in Letcher County.

“There were several years of water sampling. We sampled at eight different sites,” she added.

The eight sites were in the Dry Fork, Sandlick and Crafts Colly Creeks.

“We found for most.. for all of the creeks that were sampled, they did exceed the limit that protects against a primary recreational use which would be like a swimming as well as a secondary recreational use,” said Steve Evans, the assistant director at the Kentucky Water Resources Research Institute.

The E. coli bacteria levels in all three were unsafe for people to swim in. At two of the sites, the water should not even be touched. They tested three main categories: the E. coli levels, mine runoff and erosion and sedimentation. The E. coli levels come from sewage. Evans said it is estimated 34 people at a minimum with untreated sewage need to be addressed.

Monday night a meeting was held in Whitesburg to present the findings with the public and help facilitate a discussion about what comes next.