State officials are analyzing water samples from a creek in Martin County that residents said ran bright yellow last Monday.
The incident sparked extensive comment on social media after it caught the attention of environmental activist Erin Brockovich, the subject of a popular 2000 movie, who posted a photo of the creek on Facebook.
“How would you like to find the creek behind your house looking like this in morning?” Brockovich said in her post, which promised she would “get to the bottom of this.”
Residents have speculated the April 11 discoloration in Rockhouse Creek, in the Tomahawk community, was caused by chemicals from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, at oil or gas wells in the watershed.
John A. Mura, spokesman for the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, said the agency knows of no evidence linking the incident to fracking.
Local officials notified state regulators of the discoloration after a resident called 911 about the creek.
State officials responded and took water samples from the creek.
Test results were not available Friday. Officials have not determined what caused the incident, Mura said.
Sara Vitatoe, who was visiting relatives who live along the creek, said she first saw the discoloration and took a photo shortly before 11 a.m. on April 11.
She said the creek was first bright yellow, then turned bright green after a while. Later, there appeared to be a silver-orange sheen on the surface, Vitatoe said.
Vitatoe said she saw employees of Chesapeake Energy at the creek on Tuesday.
Efforts to reach the oil and gas company for comment Friday were not successful.
Gina Patrick, who lives next to the creek, said a neighbor had called about the slick. She watched and could clearly see it coming down the creek.
“The first thing that popped in my mind … that looks like anti-freeze,” she said.
Patrick used a bucket to dip out a sample of the water.
She put the bucket under her back steps. Two 6-month-old dogs, DD and Fat Boy, died after drinking the water, she said.
She said she couldn’t think of anything else that would have killed the Boston terrier-border collie pups.
Partrick said the discolored water stretched several miles down the creek. The slick took more than two hours to clear the section of creek by her house, she said.
Partrick said the spot where the discoloration first entered the creek was near oil and gas wells.
She had her water well tested Tuesday out of a concern over possible contamination. She did not have the results as of Friday.
Brockovich posted a photo of the discolored creek on Facebook Wednesday. There were more than 2,200 comments by Friday evening.
Brockovich did not respond to interview requests through Facebook and her website.
Brockovich has been a very public figure since Julia Roberts played her in the film about Brockovich’s work to dig out information for a lawsuit alleging Pacific Gas & Electric had leaked a toxic chemical into the water supply of a small California town.
The utility paid $333 million to residents — the largest toxic tort injury settlement in U.S. history, according to Brockovich’s website.
She now has a company called Brockovich Research & Consulting.
The website says she is a consumer advocate involved in projects on a number of fronts, including environmental contamination and alleged problems with medical devices.