Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 11, 2014

Ashland prepared for contaminant

Lana Bellamy
The Independent

ASHLAND — Ryan Eastwood, director of Engineering and Utilities in Ashland, said he does not expect the chemical spill putting the state of West Virginia into a national emergency to affect water services in Boyd County.

The spill of the chemical 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol into the Elk River prompted the West Virginia American Water Company to send out urgent warnings for 300,000 residents in nine counties to not use tap water in any capacity, be it to drink, shower, brush their teeth or any other uses.

The nine counties affected are Boone, Cabell, Clay, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam and Roane.

Should the contaminated water not be properly contained and reach the intake supply of Ashland Engineering and Utilities, Eastwood said they are prepared.

“If it makes it to our intake, we still have 12 to 18 hours probably worth of water supply to our plant. We should be able to let it go by, but we don’t anticipate any problems,” he said.

He further explained the water company has a reservoir of raw, untreated water from which they can draw upon during emergencies. If they had to tap into these resources, he said they would be able to supply water to customers until enough time has passed for the river to push the contaminated water downstream.

The Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commission will be keeping a close eye on the progress of the chemical spill movement as it spreads down the Ohio River.

“We have a gas chromatograph installed by ORSANCO in the water plant that monitors the river water constantly for dozens and dozens of chemicals and metals. Any time there’s a potential spike, they scrutinize it,” Eastwood said.

Even if the chemical contaminants seep into the Ashland area, Eastwood said they have another option other than tapping into the emergency reservoir.

“If it’s floating on the surface of the water, we can draw from below it,” he said. “ORSANCO will give us more ideas of the level of risk whenever it gets closer, but we’re monitoring it. It probably won’t arrive here until later this evening or tomorrow at this time. We've still got plenty of time.”

CNN reported the chemical, 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol, is harmful if swallowed, according to Thomas Aluise, a spokesman for West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection. It is used to wash coal before it goes to market.

President Obama has declared a state of emergency for West Virginia, calling upon the Federal Emergency Management Agency  to aid in delivering bottled water to the affected region.

LANA BELLAMY can be reached at lbellamy@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.