Ohio River. Photo by: Maddy Schmidt

By: Felicia Jordan

CINCINNATI — Water samples collected from the Ohio River by Greater Cincinnati Water Works contain “no detectable levels” of chemical contamination from the East Palestine train derailment, according to a Wednesday report from GCWW.

The report comes one day after Governor Mike DeWine and Ohio EPA officials held a press conference addressing concerns surrounding the train derailment, including reports that chemicals from the train seeped into surrounding waterways and creeks and flowed into the Ohio River.

EPA officials announced it detected levels of butyl acrylate from the crash in the waters of the Ohio River. The creek suspected of carrying the contaminated water to the Ohio River, Little Beaver Creek, is around 300 miles north of Cincinnati, GCWW said.

“GCWW has tested approximately 111 water samples from the date of the derailment through February 14,” read GCWW’s report. “No detectable levels of the chemicals have been found.”

GCWW tested for four different chemicals: butyl acrylate, vinyl chloride, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether and ethylhexyl acrylate.

The contaminated waters containing the chemicals from the Feb. 3 derailment are moving at a rate of roughly one mile per hour, Ohio EPA Chief Tiffani Kavalec said Tuesday. This means the contaminants aren’t expected to reach Cincinnati’s neck of the Ohio River until early next week, on approximately Feb. 19 or 20, GCWW said.

“We do this kind of testing every day, several times a day,” said Jeff Swertfeger, superintendent of water quality and treatment at GCWW.

When it does arrive, it’s not expected to have any affect on the drinkability of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky water, because of the precautions and treatment protocols in place, Kavalec said.

“The spill did flow to the Ohio River, but the Ohio River is very large and it’s a water body that’s able to dilute the pollutants pretty quickly,” said Kavalec.

The rate at which the chemicals are traveling will give GCWW and Northern Kentucky Water District officials plenty of notice to close intakes to the river ahead of time to stop the contaminated water from entering holding containers that house drinking water.

Mary Carol Wagner, water quality manager with the Northern Kentucky Water District, told Linknky that, when the time comes, intakes will be shut off and the region will be able to pull clean drinking water from two Northern Kentucky reservoirs as the contamination passes.

“In case of incidents like this, we can actually shut our intakes from pulling water in from the Ohio into the reservoirs and feed off of the reservoirs and let the contaminated water flow downstream,” Wagner said

On Feb. 10, the U.S. EPA issued a letter to Norfolk Southern, the company that owns the derailed train, notifying it that the agency believed the company could be found liable for damages and cleanup associated with the incident. In that letter, the EPA said 150 cars on the train derailed — 20 of which were carrying hazardous materials.

The materials “are known to have been and continue to be released into the air, surface soils and surface waters,” the EPA wrote on January 10.

Those materials are:

  • Vinyl chloride
  • Butyl acrylate
  • Ethylhexyl acrylate
  • Ethylene glycol monobutyl ether
  • Isobutylene

“Materials released during the incident were observed and detected in samples from Sulphur Run, Leslie Run, Bull Creek, North Fork Little Beaver Creek, Little Beaver Creek and the Ohio River,” wrote the EPA in the letter to Norfolk Southern.

On Feb. 13, the EPA said it was monitoring and screening air quality in communities in and around East Palestine. Re-entry air screenings showed that there were no detections of vinyl chloride or hydrogen chloride in the 291 homes screened as of the update, including local schools and libraries.

State officials had no idea the train that derailed carried hazardous chemicals before it crashed, Governor Mike DeWine said during a press conference Tuesday afternoon. He said under current law, Norfolk Southern wasn’t required to notify states when trains are transporting hazardous chemicals if the cars carrying such substances don’t make up enough cars in the train.

“This is absurd and we need to look at this and Congress needs to take a look at how these things are handled,” said DeWine.

Reposted with permission from WCPO 9 Cincinnati.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *