Cranley: Cincinnati drinking water safe following oil spill

Published: Aug. 19, 2014 at 8:39 PM EDT
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Clean up. (FOX19)
Clean up. (FOX19)
Crews on the Ohio River near the plant. (FOX19)
Crews on the Ohio River near the plant. (FOX19)

NEW RICHMOND, OH (FOX19) - Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley (D) says that Cincinnati water is safe for residents after thousands of gallons of diesel fuel was leaked into the Ohio River Monday night due to a spill at a Duke Energy plant.

Duke Energy says the spill happened Monday at 11:15 p.m. at W.C. Beckjord Power Plant, located in New Richmond about 20 miles east and upstream of Cincinnati.

Duke Energy says 5,000 gallons of fuel were released during what it called a "routine transfer of fuel oil" that was stopped 15 minutes after the initial discharge. Coast Guard Officer Mark Nemeck says that amount is considered a "medium oil discharge for inland waters."

The Coast Guard has shut down a 15-mile section of the river to allow boat crews to search for any fuel oil that can be vacuumed and recovered. Officials do not know how far the oil has traveled.

Greater Cincinnati Water Works (GWWW) reports they received notification of the spill shortly after midnight and shut down the river drinking water intakes as a precautionary measure. The Northern Kentucky Water District also shut their intakes.

Water Works will take samples along the Ohio River to ensure the water supply is safe and will continue operating while the intakes are down.

Cranley says the drinking water is not contaminated and safe for drinking.

Intake values were shut off within an hour of the spill being reported, Cranley said during a Tuesday press conference. Oil plumes also float on top of the water while the intake valves are located on the bottom of the river, increasing the unlikelihood that the water could be contaminated.

Cranley said that four hours after the plume passes the last intake valve located beyond Saylor Park, GWWW will begin testing the water. At that point, they will consider reopening the valves.

In a press conference Tuesday Duke Energy representatives said the company takes full responsibility and will restore the river to its previous condition.

Coast Guard officials brought say the company brought in Clean Harbors, Inc., a company that responds to oil spills, to help clean up. Boats are on the scene deploying clean up materials and containment barriers.

The Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency are also on the scene.

"We notified state and local authorities of the incident and have been working with them throughout the overnight hours," said Chuck Whitlock, Duke Energy president of Midwest Commercial Generation and vice president of gas operations.

Beckjord was scheduled to be retired in January 2015, according to previous reports, because Duke assessed that it could not afford to update the facility to meet EPA requirements. The power units in the station were due to go out of use in 2015, Duke says.

Duke Energy said Tuesday that this oil spill has no impact on the scheduled future closing.

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