Creek raises a stink: Source of odor, dead fish a mystery

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By Lisa King

Residents in the vicinity of Third Street and Governor's Square Shopping Center have been smelling something foul in the air, and they want to know what's causing it.

Since Sunday they've been reporting the bad odor and dead fish floating in Clear Creek, and local and state experts still are trying to determine their sources.

Tom Doyle, director of water and sewers in Shelbyville, said he had thought the problem was created by stagnant water in the creek caused by the power outage from Sunday's windstorm, but state environmental experts he brought in to investigate determined Thursday afternoon that was not the case.

"The whole creek is black, especially at the Third Street bridge, and there is some real black, murky looking stuff coming out of the ground around the canoe ramp," Doyle said. "We didn't know what it was, and so we took a sample of it to send to the lab. And I can now say that the stagnated water is not the cause of the problem."

Residents know there definitely is a problem. Gene Graw, who lives on Goodman Avenue, said the stench is so bad, it is very nearly intolerable.

"It's really bad," he said. "Last night, we couldn't hardly eat supper because of it."

Jeff Simpson, who is a mail carrier in that area, said many of the people along his route have been talking about the smell.

"Everybody is worried about it," he said.

Doyle called in Clark Dorman, a state environmental inspector, who said he is still investigating the situation but thinks the black water is caused from rotting vegetation on the creek bed and is harmless.

But he still is searching for the origin of the stench and the fish kill.

"Our job is to figure out what's up with the fish kill and find the cause of the foul smell," he said. "I think it could be caused either from the overflow at the lift station or from the unknown discharge at the boat ramp. Odors can be very hard to track down sometimes."

Dorman said until he can pinpoint what is wrong, he advises people not to engage in any recreational activities at the creek.

"Don't swim in it or fish in it until we know what is going on," he said.

Doyle said he had been working with state water official Charlie Roth to figure out a way to resolve the problem. "He is coming to Shelby County today [Friday] to go over a plan of action," he said.

During Sunday's storm, the pumping station lost power, causing it to overflow. Doyle said he thought that the fish had died from lack of oxygen in the water, and the fish were causing the stench.

He said he had reported the problem to the Kentucky Division of Water and has been in contract every day trying to get the situation cleaned up.

Doyle said that Shelbyville is not the only town to have experienced a power outage to their pumping stations.

"Louisville still has more than 100 pump stations down, and Oldham County still has a lot of pump stations with no power," he said. "It's a disaster."