NewsLEX 18 Investigates


Lexington water line replacement leads to 'very minor fish kill' in South Elkhorn Creek, KAW says no impact

Posted at 9:11 PM, Jun 07, 2022

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX18) — A portion of the South Elkhorn Creek in Lexington was impacted last Thursday by a nearby water line replacement, leading to a “temporary very minor fish kill,” according to the Kentucky Division of Water.

Kentucky American Water, through the contractor Todd Johnson Contracting, used chlorine tablets to clean a pipe they were installing. This procedure is standard, but some of that chlorine found its way into the nearby creek.

Joe Ingram, who lives next to the creek, showed LEX18 photographs of multiple dead fish he spotted in the creek following the pipe discharge. It’s usually full of catfish, minnows, and crawdads.

“It’s just sad to come back down here and look at the creek and see no life, it just feels dead now,” Ingram said.

LEX18 spotted no fish in the portion of the creek near Ingram’s house Tuesday, just ducks (who breathe through the air compared to fish who pull oxygen from the water using their gills.)

A Kentucky American Water representative told LEX18 they dechlorinate water before it could find its way into creeks, as is normal.

“Our findings did not reveal any issues with work that was done that would have negatively affected the environment,” said Kentucky American Water Spokesperson Susan Lancho.

Their inspector only found a single dead fish, Lancho told LEX18. She said they test waterways each time there is discharge from one of their sites. The test, Lanchso said was conducted Thursday, from the South Elkhorn Creek was within the allowable level., she said, adding contractors followed proper procedures

Ingram said by the time Kentucky American Water arrived that the dead fish were gone. He’d reached out with his concerns to KAW, Todd Johnson Contractors, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, and the State Division of Water.

After speaking with representatives from the different organizations, Ingram said he came away with the takeaway that the current procedures allow for creeks like the one like his to be impacted by the discharge from work sites. He believes the dechlorination that is done is not effective enough.

“I'm tired of calling around and trying to be a watchdog when it seems like nobody thinks there is a flaw in the system. If they saw firsthand what I saw then everybody would want to be involved,” Ingram said.

Full KAW statement:

“As a utility that works with a precious natural resource every day, Kentucky American Water is committed to being a good steward of the environment and appreciates our customers’ commitment to protecting and preserving the environment, too. Upon learning about a customer’s concern regarding a project in the Higbee Mill Road area of Lexington on Friday, a Kentucky American Water representative followed up that day to speak personally to the person with the concern and also did a site visit to check the nearby creek and the work site. We also reviewed procedures followed by our contractor to dechlorinate any discharged water, which is standard procedure, and tested the chlorine levels of water, as well. Our contractor followed up with additional reviews of the area on Saturday.

Our findings did not reveal any issues with work that was done that would have negatively affected the environment.

Throughout this process we were in communication with local and state officials, as well, to keep them informed about the concern that had been brought to our attention as well as the findings.”