Many families spend their summers enjoying time on local waterways by boating, fishing and swimming.
Residents and tourists are being affected by the bacterial pollution that abounds in one of the most famous local waterways — the Cumberland River. The pollution refers mainly to the existence of E. coli bacteria which occurs in human and animal waste that has been improperly or inadequately treated.
Pollution levels in this river were addressed at the most recent Bell Fiscal Court meeting.
“It’s going to take those in Harlan to embrace cleaning up the Cumberland. By the time it gets to us, and I’m open to suggestions, but mass filtration is probably not going to be on the list of options,” said Judge Executive Albey Brock.
A July 1 press release from the Commonwealth of Kentucky Division of Water states that people should avoid recreational contact with waters in the areas specified because of the bacteria which occurs in waste and indicates the presence of untreated or inadequately treated sewage. The bacteria creates a potential for diarrheal illnesses and other infectious diseases.
Swim advisories have been a common theme along the Cumberland River for several years due to the polluted state of the waterway.
“There is no excuse for the river to be in the shape that it is in. There is no excuse for swim advisories, here in southeast Kentucky at its headwaters,” said John Grace with Adventure Tourism.
Outdoor tourism has the potential to be affected by the state of the Cumberland River because it empties into other local waterways throughout the watershed including Martins Fork, Shillalah Creek, Sugar Run and Yellow Creek, which are some of the more visited areas in Bell County.
“Every person in our area should feel a responsibility to return this river to a pristine state,” said Grace.
Kelsey Gerhardt may be reached at 606-302-9093 or on Twitter @kgerhardtmbdn.