Possible Methane Contamination of Drinking Water Wells in Kentucky

Cross-posted from Appalachian Voices

“In all my 20 years of working on water quality problems, I have never seen a drinking water well catch on fire and burn continuously for days on end,” Donna Lisenby said in reaction to news reports of a well fire in Pike County, Kentucky.

Ted Withrow of KFTC observes the well fire in Pike County, KY. Photo Credit: Sue Tallichet

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth Steering Committee member Ted Withrow contacted Appalachian Voices for assistance with heavy metal sampling for 4 Kentucky families whose wells may be contaminated with methane. One well has flames that shoot more than a foot high out of the top of their well. Families in the area report that the water sometimes runs orange or black, and causes their skin to burn upon contact. Some individuals suspect nearby Excel Number 2 mine to be the source of the contamination. The families reported the water problems to government officials in May, but no action has been taken to help the families.

Keeper Springs, Appalachian Voices and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth have stepped in and will be providing a truckload of bottled water to the families. This generous donation will hopefully fulfill the families’ water needs and alleviate some financial strain until a permanent solution can be found. Appalachian Voices is providing heavy metal testing to identify any other pollutants in the water.

The fact that many aspects of the coal cycle can damage drinking water supplies is nothing new – underground slurry injections and slurry ponds contaminate water in West Virginia, coal ash from power plants contaminates water in Tennessee and now underground mining operations may be contaminating drinking water wells in Kentucky. As we receive the results of heavy metal tests, we should be able to make progress on identifying the extent of the contamination. Stay tuned to the Front Porch Blog as this story develops.

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Possible Methane Contamination of Drinking Water Wells in Kentucky

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