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EPA approves Kentucky’s first urban watershed plan for Beargrass Creek

Clothes and trash caught on a log in Beargrass Creek.
Clothes and trash caught on a log in Beargrass Creek.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved Kentucky’s first urban watershed plan to help clean up Louisville’s own Beargrass Creek.

The creek and its three branches accumulate a whole lot of garbage in the 60-square-mile watershed that runs through urban Louisville, past homes, businesses, farmland and through some of the city’s Olmsted parks, including Cherokee and Seneca.

“If you’ve ever gone on a walk along the creek you will see a huge amount of it is put there by people, and it’s mostly trash, just a huge amount of trash,” said Sheryl Lauder, Metropolitan Sewer District spokesperson. 

The sewer district will use an initial $95,000 grant from the EPA to educate the public on how they can help to reduce pollution in the middle fork of Beargrass Creek. 

“Most of this is trying to change behavior to properly dispose of your trash, to pick up the poo from your dog and properly dispose of it in the trash,” Lauder said. 

Urban waterways have a particularly hard time with pollution. They’re on the receiving end of runoff from the city’s asphalt, pavement and yards. People accidentally send all kinds of pollution into the creek: trash, road salt, fertilizer runoff, engine oil and dog waste. 

There’s been fish kills, trash islands and lots of garbage: plastic bottles, Styrofoam containers, tires, clothes, tents, doors and at least one engine block.

The EPA’s approval of the urban watershed plan is the latest in a series of projects to restore the creek. 

The U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers signed off on a major restoration project to improve the aquatic habitat in May. 

The Metropolitan Sewer District began operating its largest project to date to reduce sewage overflows into the creek back in June.

Ryan Van Velzer is the Kentucky Public Radio Managing Editor. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.

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