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Because we're all downstream... Rally for the Rivers held at River Walk

Nancy Nettles records comparisons of drinking and river water 

(Paducah KY – June 25, 2011) – Gene Nettles was Mr. Science Guy on Saturday at the Paducah River Walk. Working on a card table, Nettles used test tubes and dropped various chemicals into the tube with water samples. His goal was twofold: to compare Paducah city water to water from the Ohio River and to demonstrate the procedure to the media. Nettles’ wife, Nancy, wrote the results of each test on poster board.

The Nettles are members of the Great Rivers branch of the Sierra Club, which a rally to call attention to river pollution on Saturday in Paducah. The effort one of ten Rally for the Rivers, held at ten sites across Kentucky. Rally for the Rivers “…because we all live downstream” is an effort of the national Sierra Club to call public attention to pollution caused by industry.

Coal and coal generating plants are targeted by Kentucky’s Cumberland Chapter, the statewide organization for their role in polluting Kentucky rivers. In addition to the better known fight over mountain top removal, (MTR), the Sierra Club and other environmental groups are taking on coal ash and other byproducts of coal as a fuel source. U. S. coal fired plants generate nearly 140 million tons of fly ash, scrubber sludge, and other wastes every year. Every one in fifty residents living near a coal ash pond could get cancer from arsenic contaminated drinking water.

The Great Rivers Chapter most recently has been involved in efforts to keep a coal terminal and a coal liquification plant from locating in West Paducah. Residents, environmentalists, the City of Metropolis Illinois and Harrah's Casino joined forces to successfully prevent a zoning permit from being issued for the project. The issue isn't dead. On Friday, the coal terminal company presented its case to the Kentucky state government regulators.

During 2007, industrial facilities discharged approximately 1.5 million pounds of chemicals linked to cancer into more than 1300 waterways. The Ohio River received the greatest amount of cancer causing chemical discharges. McCracken County ranks 9th out of 120 counties for cancer-related diseases.

According to Jeanie Embry, one of the event organizers, industrial discharges of mercury are the reason that Kentucky has had a statewide consumption limit on eating fish for the last eleven years. Women of child bearing age are discouraged from eating any fish caught in the Ohio River. Others can eat paddlefish up to six times a year. Catfish and white bass are safe to eat once a month.

Embry warns that “Mercury is a neurotoxin that is linked to learning disabilities and developmental disabilities like autism.”

Kentucky ranks fifth in the nation for mercury poisoning.

The Sierra Club and other environmental groups have criticized Governor Beshear for his support of the coal industry. Activists point to the case of two subsidiaries of International Coal Group and Frasure Creek Mining Company. The companies had stacked up over 20,000 incidences of violations of the Clean Water Act. The cumulative costs of the fines could have exceeded $740 million dollars. The Beshear Administration levied a fine of $660,000. Outraged environmentalists went to Franklin Circuit Court.

Nettles, trained for water testing by the Kentucky Water Alliance, one of the groups involved in the suit said “The EPA is only trying to enforce commonsense regulations.”


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