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July 7, 2014

Residents worried refinery may be polluting Sinking Creek

Somerset —

Property owners along Sinking Creek noticed a few weeks ago the water wasn’t as clear as it once was. The small tributary, which meets Pitman Creek in Ferguson just off Ky. 914 and from there flows into Lake Cumberland, began showing a white, slick, milky substance in its shallow depths in early June. 
Somerset City Councilor John Ricky Minton, who owns property bordering the creek off Hardin Lane, brought the situation up in a June 23 council meeting. He said the culprit is Continental Refining Company, which is located just upstream from his property.
“We’ve got a little problem with the refinery putting stuff in the creek,” Minton said during the meeting. “The whole creek from the refinery is just slime. It smells,” said Minton. 
Minton said he received several phone calls about the substance.
A representative with the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection Division of Water made the trip to the refinery on June 13. The representative, Crystal Davis, wrote in her inspection report that the inspection “was conducted as a result of a complaint of stream degradation.
“Upon arrival at the facility I informed (Floyd Hoffer, environmental compliance manager) that a complaint had been received,” Davis wrote in her report, which was obtained by the Commonwealth Journal through an open records request.
According to the report, the company “had been experiencing treatment issues and had recently switched treatment chemicals.”
Hoffer, when reached on Monday, confirmed the comments in the inspection report. 
“We’ve had some problems with our wastewater treatment,” said Hoffer. “It is not hazardous, but it has discolored the creek.”
The chemical change that caused the discoloration began on Monday, June 9. Hoffer said some progress has been made in repairing the situation, but he added they are still working toward stopping the discharge completely. 
According to Davis’ investigation report, the company “experienced an incidence of a die-off/sloughing of microbes from the filters,” which resulted in the discharge. The company’s treatment process consists of aerobic bacterial treatment. 
“We’re a week or two in ... we’ve seen some improvement, but we’re not where we need to be just yet,” said Hoffer.
Hoffer said Davis visited the refinery again on Monday to take samples and photographs. The Commonwealth Journal was unable to reach anyone with the Division of Water to confirm the visit, and no documentation of Monday’s visit is yet available. 
Minton said the substance had been washed away by recent rains, but he said the substance — described as  “cloudy/milky” and “odorous” in Davis’ investigation report — appeared again on Sunday and became thicker through Monday. 
Minton said another land-owner located closer to the refinery reported the substance was thicker upstream.
“You can hardly stand up in it up there because it’s 10 times as bad,” said Minton.
Another property owner, Chester Holsomback, said he hopes to see the stream run more clear soon.
“We want it cleaned up,” said Holsomback. “It needs to stop.”
Hoffer emphasized that the discharge is not harmful. 
“None of the tests we’ve run indicate a hazardous constituent,” said Hoffer.

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