Pollution and Causes

Hinkston Creek originates in the southern and western portions of Montgomery County, flows through the city of Mt. Sterling, and then proceeds northward through Bourbon County, where it joins with Stoner Creek to form the South Fork of the Licking River. The creek drains much of western Nicholas County, and a portion of western Bath County. Major tributaries include Boone’s Creek, Grassy Lick Creek, Black’s Creek, Somerset Creek, Big Brushy Creek, and Taylor’s Creek, among others. Hinkston Creek and some of its tributaries have become impaired and significantly degraded by nonpoint pollution from poor livestock grazing practices, removal of streamside vegetation, the dumping of waste along banks, runoff from the city of Mt. Sterling (not a KPDES Phase II community), sedimentation, and other causes.

Margaret Lake of Bourbon County is a Master Conservationist. Her conservation work was highlighted in the Summer 2009 Bluegrass Conservancy News (PDF) (8 pp, 3.5MB) Photo courtesy of the Bourbon County Conservation District

Specifically, a segment of Hinkston Creek in Montgomery County (river miles 51.5 to 65.9) has been listed as impaired for the past 10 years by the Kentucky Division of Water due to poor habitat conditions for warm water aquatic species. Other Hinkston Creek segments in Bourbon and Bath counties (river miles 0 to 12.4; 20.8 to 31.0; 41.8 to 49.1) are also listed as impaired, as well as several minor Hinkston Creek tributaries (e.g., Black’s Creek, Grassy Lick Creek, Boone Creek). The causes of impairment listed by the Division of Water include siltation, organic enrichment, and nutrients, among other causes. Wastewater treatment plants for Mt. Sterling, Sharpsburg, and Carlisle discharge into Hinkston Creek and its tributaries. There are a few other minor—mostly stormwater—point source discharges located in the Hinkston Creek watershed, but KY DOW publications list impairments as primarily related to agriculture.

The KY Division of Water has collected nutrient and suspended sediment data in the Hinkston Creek watershed in advance of developing a TMDL, though little work has been initiated on the TMDL itself. KY DOW information in the 2006 Integrated Report notes that the state is in the process of developing nutrient criteria for streams, and that TMDLs for streams impaired by nutrients and/or organic enrichment will not be finalized until the nutrient criteria are promulgated. Additional information on Hinkston Creek has been collected by other organizations.

Related Documents

Hinkston Creek Watershed Project Presentation (PDF) (36 pp, 8.7MB)
This document includes a series of maps, graphs, and other information on nitrogen, phosphorus, sediment, and bacteria in the watershed. This presentation highlights sections of the watershed management plan, and has been presented to planning partners across the region.
Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) for Hinkston Creek (PDF) (49 pp, 966K)
Staff from the Hinkston Creek Project have worked with Morehead State University professors and students to collect water quality data throughout the Hinkston Creek watershed. The QAPP provides details on the water sampling program.

A survey and mapping program undertaken by the Gateway District Health Department as part of a five-county nonpoint program found widespread erosion along the banks of feeder streams and the creeks themselves, little riparian cover or buffers along waterways, relatively unrestricted cattle access to sensitive bank areas, confined animal feeding operations adjacent to streams, row cropping on erodible lands and riparian areas along waterways, and poor manure management on farms throughout the Hinkston Creek watershed. Macro invertebrate sampling conducted by Gateway District Health Department staff at sites in Hinkston Creek found that sites were devoid of both moderate and high quality organisms (GDHD, 1994, 1995). As noted, the Kentucky Division of Water 305(b) Report for 2006 lists segments of Hinkston Creek and two tributaries as impaired due to fecal coliform, sedimentation/siltation, nutrient /eutrophication, biological indicators, and other unknown causes.

Habitat assessments and chemical/physical monitoring conducted by the KY Division of Water and the nonprofit Licking River Watershed Watch organization have found poor instream and riparian habitat for Hinkston Creek in the vicinity of Mt. Sterling, little to no vegetated buffer in many locations, waste deposited in the stream and along the banks, and bank erosion throughout the upper reaches. Tetra Tech staff have conducted screening surveys of the upper portion of Hinkston Creek in Montgomery County to determine the nature and extent of nonpoint source pollution problems in the watershed. This survey found that there are a number of suspected problems in the Hinkston Creek drainage in and around Mt. Sterling that could be addressed through a nonpoint source project, including:

  • Livestock access impacts to stream banks and stream water quality
  • Extensive loss of riparian vegetation along the creek and its tributaries
  • Poorly controlled runoff from construction sites throughout the drainage area
  • Poor runoff quality from commercial and other areas along the creek
  • Dumping of trash and debris along the creek in scattered locations
  • Eroded/eroding stream banks at various locations in the watershed

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