LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) — Water and health officials along the Ohio River are reassuring Kentuckians their water is safe to drink after a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.
Nexstar’s WKBN reported the Norfolk Southern train derailed around 9 p.m. on Feb. 3. Federal investigators said a mechanical issue with a rail car axle caused the fiery derailment near the Pennsylvania state line.
The train cars contained hazardous materials such as vinyl chloride, combustible liquids, butyl acrylate, benzene residue, and nonhazardous materials such as wheat, plastic pellets, malt liquors, and lube oil, Norfolk Southern said in a statement.
Now, Kentuckians are concerned the hazardous chemicals are headed downstream and into the Ohio River, which creates Kentucky’s natural northern border. The United State Environmental Protection Agency has created a website to help keep those at risk updated and help those directly impacted with resources.
The EPA has confirmed butyl acrylate has entered the Ohio River from a tributary closer to the spill but doesn’t anticipate a health risk to residents. Greater Cincinnati Water Works reported 111 tests of the Ohio River for butyl acrylate, vinyl chloride, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, and ethyl hexyl acrylate were all negative. The water utility company said they don’t expect the pollution from the spill to reach them until Sunday.
The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) and water companies along the Ohio River, including those in Kentucky, are working together to collect samples to look for any potential threat to drinking water.
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The Northern Kentucky Water District, one group working with ORSANCO, said it has plans in place to ensure the drinking water remains safe if the pollution continues downstream.
“Maintaining the safety of our community’s drinking water is our highest priority,” said Lindsey
Rechtin, president and CEO of NKWD in a news release. “District staff has been working closely with numerous water professionals and agencies and is taking the necessary precautionary measures to protect our drinking water supply and the public’s health and safety.”
On Tuesday, Kentucky American Water assured its customers their water would be safe as it doesn’t use the Ohio River as a source of water.
“As is standard practice, we and other water professionals have been monitoring this situation and receiving updates. Kentucky American Water’s sources of supply are not impacted by the Ohio train derailment event,” said Bob Money, Kentucky American Water’s water quality and environmental compliance manager, in a news release. “For water professionals like us who are not impacted by this situation, this is an opportunity to study the situation as well as build and improve further on our expertise and resiliency.”
On Tuesday, Ashland City Government said it is also working with the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission.
“Based on current data, the spill on the Ohio River in northeast Ohio does not pose a risk to the quality of our drinking water. Your water is safe to drink,” the statement read.
On Friday, Ashland City Government announced they would be closing their water intake from the Ohio River. Giving the chemicals time to pass through the area on Sunday.
“We want to reiterate this is precautionary, and your water is safe to drink,” Ashland City Government said in a statement.
On Monday, Louisville Water said their water was also safe to drink. After looking at the size and location of the spill, scientists with Louisville Water said they have determined the water is safe to drink. But, customers could smell a slight odor.
Updates on water testing in Kentucky?
The Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commission offers weekly updates on the state and quality of the river, they also are regularly updating information related to the test for vinyl chloride, combustible liquids, butyl acrylate, and benzene residue.
“We are currently below the 1.00 ppb detection level at all sites sampled from as far upstream as Parkersburg, WV (Ohio River Mile 184.5) and as far downstream as Racine Hydro Dam (Ohio River Mile 237.7),” the Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commission website reads.
John Mura, executive director at Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet, said it is in daily contact with the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, monitoring the spill response. Water samples were collected on Valentine’s Day
“Daily results show the butyl acrylate spill already is at concentrations well below national health standards and is continuing to dissipate,” Mura said. Also noting that the last 15 entries of water testing also showed chemical levels of less than one part per billion.
Kevin Kelly, chief communications officer for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources also confirmed that Kentucky’s water quality will not suffer severe contamination.
The Kentucky River is unique in that it flows north into the Ohio River rather than the other way around. The confluence of the two is near Carrollton in Carroll County,” Kelly said. “Fortunately, there are no acute impacts expected to fish and wildlife in the Kentucky portion of the Ohio River based on current information and testing. Detection of chemicals in the Ohio River related to the train derailment was well under the drinking water limit in Wheeling, West Virginia, suggesting conditions in the Kentucky portion of the Ohio River will be even better.