On May 21, 2014, WAVE 3 News reporter John Boel videotaped what looks like human feces bobbing in and blanketing Harrod's Creek. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
It was a problem from the Sleepy Hollow Lake dam downstream as far as the eye could see. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
OLDHAM COUNTY, KY (WAVE) – On May 21, 2014, Harrods Creek was flooding. Not with rainwater. It was flooding with human sewage -- “solids,” as they call them in the water pollution business, bobbing and blanketing Harrods Creek as far as the eye could see.
It wasn’t much different from two years ago when I recorded a sea of sickening, floating feces in the same place, so I obtained a report from the state listing all water pollution violations in Jefferson and Oldham counties in 2013 and so far in 2014.
It contains no violations specifically mentioning MSD in Jefferson County, but 27 from facilities managed by the Oldham County Environmental Authority. Some examples:
"A buildup of solids observed. Stream will need to be cleaned as soon as possible.”
“E coli exceedance.”
“Pockets of solids 2 inches deep"
"Thick blankets of sludge one foot thick" where the inspector "could not see an end to the impact.”
Those were included only in violations that were cited. The pollution video that I shot was never reported by Oldham County or anyone else.
"I was not aware of the video you showed us,” said Judy Petersen of the Kentucky Waterways Alliance.
I shared my video and the violations report with the Kentucky Waterways Alliance.
“Floating solids in any creek in Kentucky in this day and age is not acceptable," Peterson said. "It was very disturbing."
I went to the Oldham County Environmental Authority office where I shared the video and report. They refused an interview, and sent a statement, which read in part "[we've] funded 6 million dollars in capital improvements..." and, "of the 27 violations, 23 are related to plants that have already been decommissioned, are in the process of decommissioning or planned for decommissioning."
As for the video I shot on May 21, the statement reads, "our facilities experienced no overflows or compliance issues at that time."
I interviewed two infectious disease specialists about the risks involved. They said water with human sewage in it can cause serious infections if it comes in contact with cuts or sores.
"Many of them will not be life-threatening, but probably many of them will require antibiotics or drainage procedures and occasionally, sometimes, could be life-threatening on a given individual,” said Dr. Charles Woods Jr., of the UofL Physicians Group.
“My first approach would be avoidance," said Dr. Paul Schulz of Norton Healthcare. "Even if I liked or used that waterway for fishing or recreation or whatever, if you know there is frequent fecal contamination, I think you have to find another place, is what my recommendation would be."
What is the state doing about this? Two years ago, the man in charge of water pollution enforcement in Kentucky said he couldn't disclose fines or comment on Oldham County's problems, because they were close to a resolution in settlement negotiations.
Last week, when I asked him for comment on this report, he told me the same thing.