Cincinnati Shuts Off Water from Ohio River due to East Palestine Contamination

The City of Cincinnati shut off its local sourcing of water from the Ohio River following the train derailment and chemical spill in East Palestine, Ohio.

The local government announced its decision Friday:

Out of an abundance of caution, GCWW will shut off the Ohio River intake ahead of the anticipated arrival of the last detectable chemical concentration in the river. While the water intake is shut off, GCWW will temporarily switch to water reserves.

“Our City Administration is prepared for these types of events. I understand the concern, and I’m confident that temporarily shutting off the Ohio River intake is the best move,” said City Manager Sheryl Long. “There’s zero risk that our water reserves contain contaminants from the train derailment site, and tapping these reserves will give us all peace of mind. I want to thank GCWW, who are truly the best of the best, and state that I have full faith in their decision-making and their ability to keep us safe.”

The City of Cincinnati and Greater Cincinnati Water Works (GCWW) — the city’s water sanitation authority — stated that its reserves “are free from contaminants from the train derailment” and that it will monitor water quality from the Ohio River to determine the time for safe resumption of intake.

The GCWW said it “plans to use additional optimized treatment once the intakes are reopened, even if no chemicals are detected.”

This video screenshot released by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) shows the site of a derailed freight train in East Palestine, Ohio, the United States. About 50 Norfolk Southern freight train cars derailed on the night of Feb. 3 in East Palestine, a town of 4,800 residents near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, due to a mechanical problem on an axle of one of the vehicles. There were a total of 20 hazardous material cars in the train consist, 10 of which derailed, according to the NTSB, a U.S. government agency responsible for civil transportation accident investigation. (NTSB/Handout via Xinhua)

This video screenshot released by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) shows the site of a derailed freight train in East Palestine, Ohio, the United States. (NTSB/Handout via Xinhua)

On Sunday, the city published a statement regarding its testing of water from the Ohio River:

Some of the train cars were carrying industrial chemicals and it is believed that low levels of butyl acrylate seeped into the Ohio River through a small creek about 300 miles north of Cincinnati. To date, GCWW has tested approximately 159 water samples from the date of the derailment at GCWW’s Ohio River water intake.

The testing involved four chemicals — butyl acrylate, vinyl chloride, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, and ethylhexyl acrylate. The chemicals are used in industrial processes including the production of lacquers, enamels, inks, adhesives, paint thinners and industrial cleaners. So far, these chemicals have not been detected in the intake samples.

GCWW has continued to sample the Ohio River. In river samples collected upstream of GCWW intakes and analyzed Sunday morning, a compound called 2-Ethyl-1-hexanol was detected. This compound is commonly used in industrial applications including for flavorings and fragrances. Analyses of water drawn from GCWW’s intake have not indicated a detectable concentration of this compound.

The GCWW added that it would adjust its treatment of water sourced from the Ohio River when intake resumes to remove the above-mentioned chemicals.

Follow Robert Kraychik on Twitter @rkraychik.


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