Paducah Water monitoring river for hazardous chemicals from Ohio train derailment
A western Kentucky utility is continuing to monitor the Ohio River for potentially harmful chemicals spilled into the waterway after a train derailed in Ohio earlier this month.
The Feb. 3 crash in East Palestine, Ohio, spilled harmful chemicals into the river, including vinyl chloride and butyl acrylate, among others.
Paducah Water’s intakes are located over 600 miles downstream from the site of the train derailment. General manager Jason Peterson said in a Tuesday statement that the utility was “closely monitoring” the situation.
“Butyl acrylate has not been detected in the Ohio River within 650 miles upriver of Paducah, and there is currently no ‘plume’ in the river,” Peterson said. “The water that formerly contained the plume will likely be passing Paducah in the next couple of days.”
Water sample data released by the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commision (ORSANCO) indicates the dissipation of this chemical plume as it has flowed down the waterway. The latest available measurements indicate that less than 1 part per billion was detected when the water that detected the plume was tested in the northern Kentucky community of California.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said during a press conference last week that the chemical plume had “completely dissipated.” Peterson, too, said “there is no plume in the water” in his statement and that he expects “no impact” from the spill on the Paducah Water system or its customers.
“We understand that the majority of vinyl chloride was contained at the crash site, and down-river samples for vinyl chloride have been below detection limits and are not of concern for down-river communities,” Peterson said. “It is important to note that Paducah Water’s treatment process is well suited to remove both chemicals involved, even if levels were to increase in the coming weeks.”
Peterson said his staff will be conducting additional testing.
A preliminary report released Thursday by the National Transportation Safety Board revealed more details about the Feb. 3 crash in East Palestine, Ohio. The agency said the wreck of the Norfolk Southern-operated train involved the derailment of 38 train cars and the damaging of an additional 12 cars in an ensuing fire.
NTSB chairperson Jennifer Homendy spoke directly to East Palestine residents during a press conference after the report’s release.
"I am so sorry for the traumatic event that you're going through. It's devastating," Homendy said. "I can tell you this much: This was 100% preventable. We call things accidents. There is no accident. Every single event that we investigate is preventable. So our hearts are with you."