Phelps, KY – Testing the Waters – and Waiting . .

Results Could Take Ten Days

It could be another week before more than 1,000 residents of Phelps, Kentucky know whether their household water is safe for human consumption.

A chemical spill last weekend at BBM, Inc., which killed fish along Peters Creek, has left consumers questioning the safety of their drinking water. This afternoon, the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection said they did take samples of the contaminant and are “running tests to determine what it is”.

“Those tests take a week to ten days, normally,” said Lanny Brannock, spokesman for KDEP.

It is unknown how much of the mysterious chemical substance leaked into Peters Creek, but it caused a mile-long fish kill. Peters Creek flows into the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River – and is upriver from a drinking-water intake.

“I really can’t speculate as to what it might have been,” Brannock said. “I haven’t been to the site and, while we don’t think it was a hazardous substance (according to someone who was at the site and has vast experience with these instances), it was in an unlabeled container and it’s unknown yet what it is.”

The property owner is behind bars. In March of this year, former Kentucky State Rep. W. Keith Hall was sentenced to seven years in prison for bribing a state inspector and using his authority as an elected official to have that inspector assigned to Pike County coal mines where he overlooked environmental violations.

Further confusing the issue is the matter of the ownership of the chemicals.

“It’s our belief the chemicals are owned by former State Rep. Keith Hall, while his wife owns the property itself. We are working to verify these facts,” Brannock said.

The spill occurred Saturday afternoon at the vacant site when an unknown industrial substance leaked from unlabeled and deteriorating containers. State officials say there are 27 300-gallon totes remaining outside the building and 55 gallon drums and poly-tanks were inside.

Established in 2003, BMM, Inc. is listed as a company that handles chemicals and allied products – some sources call it a “mining company”

About Callie J Lyons

Callie Lyons is an investigative journalist and author living in the Mid Ohio Valley. Her first book, Stain-Resistant, Nonstick, Waterproof and Lethal: The Hidden Dangers of C8, is available at and in hundreds of libraries all over the world. Known as a "warrior for public health", Lyons' environmental investigations have been featured in documentaries, including Good Neighbors - Bad Blood and Toxic Soup, on Swedish National Television and in numbers of television, radio and print media interviews. Her work has appeared on Nova's Whiz Kids and in Mother Jones magazine. More recently, a national audience has come to know her award-winning investigative work through the Environmental Working Group and interviews with leading publications like the Huffington Post and The Intercept. Lyons' work was featured in the 2017 documentary Parched:Toxic Waters by National Geographic. The Short, Fantastic Life of a Saloon Girl is Lyons' first published work of historical fiction.
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