Becca Schimmel

Multimedia Journalist

Becca Schimmel is a multimedia journalist with the Ohio Valley ReSource a collaborative of public radio stations in Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio.  She's based out of the WKU Public Radio newsroom in Bowling Green. 

Becca was born in Charleston, SC but grew up in Lexington, Kentucky. You can often find her behind a book or near a cup of coffee. In her time away from the newsroom she enjoys running and lifting weights. She’s a sucker for unintentional puns, a good cup of coffee, a nice craft beer and a story.

Becca earned her Bachelor of Science in journalism from Murray State University with a minor in psychology. She interned with The Paducah Sun in Paducah as a general assignment reporter. From there she went on to become Morning Edition producer and general assignment reporter for WKMS in Murray.

Becca Schimmel

Tuesday marked the end of the first year at Kentucky’s first stand-alone international high school, located in Bowling Green, a refugee resettlement area.

Shoes squeaked and laughter filled the small international high school, where the student body speaks about 30 different languages.

 

What used to be the annex of Warren Central High School is now home to Gateway to Educational Opportunities, or Geo International. The school serves 180 Warren County high school students from 24 different countries.

 


Daviess County Public Library

The Daviess County Public Library could become the first library in Kentucky to employ a full-time social worker. The social worker would train and support library staff, as well as refer people in need to the appropriate agencies.

 

The Messenger-Inquirer reports the Daviess County Public Library board approved a budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, that allocates a $37,000 starting salary for the position.

The social worker won’t provide counseling services, since they will not be working in a health-care facility. Treasurer Rodney Ellis told the paper that he’s wary of a decision that could open the library up to legal liabilities.

Becca Schimmel

Kentucky is coal country, and is heavily reliant on the dirty fossil fuel for power. A study underway at Western Kentucky University is examining the effectiveness of a water-based clean coal solution.

The coal is treated with the solution at Big Rivers power plant in Ohio County, Kentucky. WKU partnered with Big Rivers and the state’s Cabinet for Economic Development to determine if the solution reduces carbon, sulfur, and nitrogen emissions.

Researchers at WKU are taking an enzyme from a mushroom and growing it in water. That solution is then sprayed on coal as it falls down a chute. The coal then sits for a few days before it’s burned.


Mending Mining Country: Three Ways Trump Could Help Miners And Coal Communities

May 15, 2017
Alexandra Kanik

At a March ceremony to sign an executive order reversing Obama-era environmental regulations, coal miners were arranged on stage around President Donald Trump as he took up his pen.

“You know what it says, right?” Trump asked the miners. “You’re going back to work.”

From his campaign rallies to White House events, President Donald Trump has surrounded himself with coal miners and promised to restore their collapsed industry.

Mary Meehan

A new report shows Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana are among seven states with twice the national rate of Hepatitis C cases.

The Centers for Disease Control reported new cases of Hep C have increased nationwide by nearly 300 percent from 2010 to 2015. Hepatitis C is still associated with more deaths than 60 other diseases.

According to the Kentucky Department for Public Health, the state had the highest rate of new acute Hepatitis C infections from 2008 to 2015, with more than 1,000 cases. The CDC report said intravenous drug use is the primary risk factor for new infections.

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet

A new study showed eight counties in Kentucky have seen the largest decline of life expectancy in the nation over a 34-year period.

Those counties are concentrated in southeastern Kentucky. Owsley County saw the largest drop in life expectancy in the nation, with people living 2.3 less years in 2014 than they did in 1980. The study attributed the decline to poverty, obesity, smoking and a lack of access to health care.

 

Owsley County Judge-Executive, Cale Turner, wasn’t surprised by the findings. He pointed to drug abuse and a historic lack of access to health care to explain the study’s results. The other Kentucky counties that saw huge declines in life expectancy are Lee, Leslie, Breathitt, Clay, Powell, Estill, and Perry.

Wikimedia Commons

A new study gave Kentucky poor marks for the safety of its drinking water.

The Natural Resources Defense Council says the commonwealth has the tenth-highest number of offenses per capita

Violations ranged from high levels of arsenic and nitrates to failure to test or properly report contamination levels. The Courier Journal reported no other state in the nation had a larger percent of its population getting its water from utilities with at least one violation. The study was based on safe drinking water act violations, and the number of customers served by those utilities.

Indiana was twenty-second in total water quality offenses per capita, while Tennessee ranked twenty-third.

Becca Schimmel

United Mine Workers retirees are celebrating a permanent fix for health benefits secured in the federal spending agreement Congress reached over the weekend. However, the deal left them with more work ahead to shore up faltering pension funds.

Coal retirees have been fighting to secure benefits for nearly five years. With benefits set to expire at the end of April, the omnibus spending bill agreed upon by Congressional negotiators secured healthcare funding for more than 22,000 retirees and beneficiaries.

UMWA communications director Phil Smith called it a huge relief.

flickr creative commons

Pulaski County is getting a residential drug treatment center for women.

 

The 100 bed facility is one of the larger treatment centers in Kentucky and will only serve female patients. An opening date has not yet been set.

 

Kim Worley is the operations director at Adanta, a behavioral health service investing in the center. He said there’s a major need for drug treatment programs in the Somerset area.

“Our region of the state is one of the ones that's worst represented in terms of some of the statistics for these people dealing with these problems. And there was nothing down here for them,” Worley said.

He said the treatment that will be offered at the center has a solid track record of success.

Office of Sen. Manchin

Congressional leaders are cautiously optimistic that a budget deal could protect health benefits for retired miners.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, said the Senate will back permanently extending health benefits for more than 22,000 retirees and beneficiaries.

Manchin said he spoke Wednesday with President Trump who said he supports the miners. Without Congressional action, miners benefits will expire at the end of the month.

At a press event in Washington, West Virginia’s Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito also called for a permanent fix, but she’s not declaring victory yet.

Alexandra Kanik

McKenzie Cantrell is an employment lawyer affiliated with the Maxwell Street Legal Clinic, in Lexington, Kentucky, where she works with low-income refugees and immigrants to uncover instances of wage theft and income disparities. Cantrell, who is also a state representative for part of Jefferson County, Kentucky, travels and gives presentations about employment law, wage theft and what workers' options are if they have problems with compensation.

“Sometimes you can just see on someone’s face, the fact that they have lost money over the course of their career, and it really affects you as someone who doesn’t want to see working people lose money and struggle in a low-income job,” Cantrell said.

Many of Cantrell’s clients work in the service and construction sectors, and many are women and minorities.

Craig Williams

The chemical weapons used in last week’s attack in Syria are the same type stored and scheduled for destruction in Madison County, Kentucky.

The sarin that’s stored at the Bluegrass Army Depot near Richmond will be destroyed starting in 2020. The job will be completed in three years, barring any delays. Craig Williams, with The Kentucky Environmental Foundation Chemical Weapons Working Group, said while the chemical weapons used in Syria didn’t come from the Bluegrass Army Depot, they’re the same as those scheduled to be destroyed.

“Somewhat depressing to know that Syrian people have been affected by these materials. Particularly since Syria recently signed onto the treaty banning such use,” Williams said.

Howard Berkes/NPR

A bipartisan group of legislators has asked President Donald Trump to make more money available for black lung health clinics as they face an increase in cases of the disease among coal miners.  

More than 20 clinics would benefit from the $3.3 million increase lawmakers are requesting. The clinics provide miners with health screenings, medical care, and assistance in securing black lung benefits.

The lawmakers wrote in a letter to the president and the White House budget director that the level of funding for clinics has been frozen for the past five years.  

The removal of a dam along the Green River in Edmonson County began Tuesday, and will continue over the next few weeks.

Once the dam is removed, the affected part of the Green River will become a recreational area, with parking and access ramps for canoes and kayaks. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is funding the project, but will transfer ownership of 18 nearby acres of land to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Lee Andrews, with The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the Green River contains some of the top biodiversity within the Ohio River system.

 

“So being able to restore this much river in a national park is unique,” Andrews said.  

US Army Corps of Engineers

Kentucky is receiving mixed reviews in a new report card looking at the nation’s aging infrastructure. The report was issued Thursday by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

One of the major challenges cited in the report is the $6.2 billion in drinking water infrastructure needs in Kentucky over the next 20 years. The state also needs a more than $6 billion investment to meet its wastewater infrastructure needs in the next two decades.

Kentucky motorists on average pay $331 a year due to driving on roads in need of repair. That’s actually a slight improvement since the last infrastructure report card, issued in 2013.

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