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Lead is a non-essential heavy metal that is mined around the world and was once used for many commercial applications, such as paint. In fact, gasoline was an additive in fuel until 1976; once it was phased out, the average IQ of children in the US increased by 4 to 6 points. Lead is still continually added to our environment through the burning of fossil fuels. This pollutant is found in at least 75 percent of the US’s most polluted sites, according to the CDC.

In an ecosystem, lead can be extremely detrimental, as it is toxic to both plant and animal life. It has a tendency to bioaccumulate, meaning our cells have a tendency to gather it because it has similar properties to essential nutrients. Lead has also been shown to cause reduced fertility levels in mammals. Lead’s toxicity depends on its solubility, which depends on the water’s pH. When it enters the water, lead often reacts with sediments and organic matter.

Because the solubility and properties of lead largely depend on the water’s pH, lead removal tactics have variable success. There are, however, certain methods of removing lead form surface waters.


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  • Adopt

    Are you a member of a group or organization in your community that would be interested in adopting this waterway? Contact us if you’re interested in learning more about stream adoption.

    Learn more about adopting a stream

  • Contact the EPA and/or the KY Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement.

    Report any acid mine drainage, extremely polluted sites, or suspected environmental violations to the EPA. If you live in Kentucky, also report the problem to the KY Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement

    Resources include:

    • Report Abandoned Mine Drainage – EPA
    • KY Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement Hotline – 502-564-2340
  • Allow for natural growth near waterways

    If you live or work next to a waterway, leave a 35′ to 100′ no mow zone on its banks. Allow natural and native plant growth in this buffer area or plant native trees, bushes, and groundcover. This vegetation can filter pollutants before they reach your waterway and provide other water quality benefits that far exceed those of a mowed lawn. Native plants and grasses require less watering and fertilizer and also provide important habitat for native species of wildlife.

    Resources include:

  • Reduce paved, impervious surfaces

    Impervious or impermeable surfaces, like pavement, contribute significantly to polluted stormwater runoff and alter stream flow habitat. If you’ve got excess pavement you’d like removed, consider a de-paving project with the Compact. Elsewhere, ensure that your downspouts drain to vegetation, gravel, or rainbarrels, rather than impervious surfaces. If you constructing or repairing your driveway, pervious pavement allows stormwater to infiltrate and filter through the ground. If you can’t do the whole drive, consider making only the portion closest to the street pervious.

    Resources include:
    1) De-paving Work – Cumberland River Compact (Call 615-837-1151)
    2) Rain Barrel Sales – Cumberland River Compact
    3) Rain Barrels Make Good Sense – UT Extension

  • Organize with others in your community. Make your voices heard and your votes count.

    Participate in community planning efforts and advocate for relevant measures that improve or protect water quality. Write to your elected official and let them know this is concern or invite them to speak about the impairment with your home-owners association. When elections come up, vote for candidates who will address the problem and hold them accountable to their promises. Support local watershed / environmental associations.

    Resources include:

  • Spread the word.

    Do your neighbors, family, or roommates know about the problem? Now that you know how to be an effective steward, enlist the help of others in your neighborhood. Share iCreek or resources within it with your neighbors and encourage them to join the effort to protect your creek.