Water quality projects happening for the Dix River watershed

Published 2:45 pm Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Nonprofit organization Bluegrass Greensource has given mini grants for eight water quality projects for the Dix River watershed.

The grants are going to nonprofits and government entities in Boyle, Lincoln and Mercer counties. The money comes from the U.S. EPA as part of the Clean Water Act, is administered through the Kentucky Division of Water, and distributed to local organizations.

Every year, Bluegrass Greensource designates a watershed area for the mini grants and anyone can apply for them. This year they are working to improve water quality in the Dix River watershed, its tributary streams, and the Kentucky River basin, and Hinkston Creek watershed near Mt. Sterling.

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The main goal of the watershed improvement program is to reduce human and livestock fecal inputs to waterways; strengthen stream bank areas to reduce erosion, sedimentation, and nutrient loading in streams; and decrease other pollutants from urban and agricultural stormwater runoff.

Bluegrass Greensource Watershed Coordinator Chris Howard said, “Not only the Dix River, but a lot of the waterways within Kentucky and the U.S. are frankly poor when it comes to high nutrient levels, high pollutant levels; they’re below standard in my opinion.”

Another goal is to increase awareness of waterways and educate people about keeping them clean. The grants can be used for public education, repairing buffer zones, doing water quality testing to inform people of pollutants, among other things.

Eight projects are taking place over the next year, and are to be completed by November. They are as follows:

• Two grants were given to nonprofit organization CREEC, which is Clark’s Run Environmental Education Corporation. They will conduct a year-long water quality testing project for Clark’s Run creek, which goes through Danville.

CREEC will go out to Clark’s Run four times over the next year to test the water at different areas. They will send samples to a lab for analysis, then come up with a plan to pinpoint where pollutants are coming from.

• CREEC’s other project is to improve signage for the stream in Danville to give people more awareness of where it is. They will place signs where Clark’s Run intersects the road. Only one sign for Clark’s Run exists in Danville; it is on South 4th Street before the bridge over the creek. The new signs will be similar to it.

• The Boyle County Extension office will be creating a riparian demonstration area behind their offices in a drainage area of Clark’s Run. A riparian buffer is plant vegetation on either side of a stream that helps maintain the bank, and keep it from eroding further.

The extension office will plant trees and other vegetation, then make it a demonstration area where farmers and locals can see how vegetation can help save their stream banks. Howard said that if there’s less plant life near a stream, the water will erode the bank every time it floods.

“But if you plant on either side, 15 to 30 feet of native plants, it’ll maintain that stream and it’ll actually improve the water quality because it’ll filter out rain water or anything that’s draining through someone’s land; it’ll filter it before it gets into the stream,” Howard said.

• Hogsett Primary School will be participating in a riparian buffer project on Earth Day this year. Teachers will educate kindergarten and first grade students about water quality and why trees are important to stream banks. Each student will get to plant a tree along a stream bank.

Howard and environmental educators from Bluegrass Greensource will be at the event, and they hope the event will become annual. Teachers will follow up with Bluegrass Greensource throughout the year, keeping tabs on the plantings.

• The Lincoln County Fiscal Court is doing a signage improvement project at Logan-Hubble Park. The signs will talk about water quality on the Dix River, and other safety information. They will include a map of the river, showing access points for boats.

• Lincoln County will also be teaching people about a new city sewage system. The Lincoln County Sanitation Department will engage the community to learn about the system and its benefits.

Bluegrass Greensource has other projects this year focused on septic systems. Howard said failing septic systems are a huge cause of human waste getting into water supplies. They will help homeowners near the Dix River watershed get septic tank repairs and pumpings.

• Shaker Village is hosting a water quality testing project for 8th grade students. Students will go out on the riverboat at Shaker landing to help test the water and learn about water quality. The program is mainly funded through Kentucky Utilities, but Bluegrass Greensource is helping schools fund transportation to get kids to Shaker Village.

• Youth program Boyle County 4H is putting together a “Stream Team” to get area youth more involved in waterways. The program will educate young people about planting at stream banks, and will do some stream cleanups.

“In my opinion, it could use a great public effort in cleaning up not only the Dix River, but all its tributaries, and just continuing public effort to make small changes in their lives to reduce the impact on waterways,” Howard said.

The Dix River feeds into Herrington Lake, which is where many people get their drinking water from.

“These projects that are focused on testing the water quality and being able to say ‘this is what’s in the water that is going into Lake Herrington,’ those projects I feel are very important,” Howard said.

Bluegrass Greensource formed in 2001 to help residents in Central Kentucky understand that small behavior changes can make a large impact on the environment. They provide environmental education, resources and outreach that equips Central Kentuckians with knowledge and tools to help ensure a clean, healthy and enjoyable environment.