West Virginia Chemical Spill

Chemical Not Detected in Cincinnati Area

Water Works Will Open Intakes Today

Update: Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014 -- 11:30 a.m.

Water quality samples collected at Greater Cincinnati Water Works' (GCWW) intakes show the Elk River Spill has passed through the Cincinnati area. The chemical, identified as 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, is not detectable in Ohio River water samples. As a result, Greater Cincinnati Water Works will open its intakes and begin normal operations at approximately 2 p.m. today.

"Our water quality team has not detected the chemical in the Ohio River water since 4 a.m. this morning," said Tony Parrott, Executive Director of Greater Cincinnati Water Works and the Metropolitan Sewer District.

GCWW has been collecting Ohio River water samples and carefully monitoring the Ohio River since the chemical spilled into the Elk River last week near Charleston, West Virginia.

The water utility shut down its intakes shortly before midnight on Tuesday, Jan. 14 as a precautionary measure to protect its drinking water supply. The chemical was detected in an up river water quality sample taken from the Meldahl Dam, which is approximately 25 miles upstream of Cincinnati's Richard Miller Treatment Plant, late Tuesday evening and was first detected in the Ohio River near GCWW’s Richard Miller Treatment Plant on Wednesday, Jan. 15 at approximately 7 a.m.

The chemical has been identified as 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (methl-cyclohexane methanol). This is used in the coal mining industry, specifically for coal washing and preparation.

GCWW obtained a sample of the chemical and has conducted treatment studies. The utility’s state-of-the-art treatment system uses both powdered carbon and granular activated carbon, creating a multi-barrier approach to remove the chemical from the water, if necessary. Although GCWW can treat the water to remove the chemical, the utility chose to shut-down its intakes as a precautionary measure.

GCWW detected the chemical at levels between 10 and 30 parts per billion (ppb) as it moved through the Cincinnati area yesterday. Thirty ppb is equal to 0.03 parts per million (ppm). The CDC says the chemical is safe at levels below one ppm.

"The levels GCWW detected in the raw Ohio River water yesterday were well below what the CDC considers safe," said Debbie Metz, Superintendent of Water Quality and Treatment. "Since we are no longer detecting the chemical in the Ohio River water, we feel confident about opening up our intakes."

"The safety of our drinking water is our highest priority," added Parrott. "Our water is safe and we took precautions to ensure our residents receive safe, high quality drinking water. Our objective is to protect our water supply and reduce risk to protect public health."

While the intakes were shut down, the utility supplemented its water supply by using water from its groundwater plant in Fairfield.

Update:  Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014 -- 4:30 p.m.

Greater Cincinnati Water Works is detecting the Elk River Spill, identified as 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, at levels between 10 and 30 parts per billion (PPB) in the raw Ohio River Water. Drinking water is not affected.

It is important to note that 30 ppb is equal to 0.03 parts per million (PPM). The CDC says the chemical is safe at levels below one PPM. What GCWW is detecting in the raw Ohio River water is well below what the CDC considers safe.

As a precautionary measure, GCWW shut down its intakes shortly before midnight on Tuesday, January 14 to reduce risk and protect our water supply.

Update Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014:

The Greater Cincinnati Water Works (GCWW) continues to carefully monitor the Ohio River and is taking all necessary precautions as a result of a chemical spill that occurred last week on the Elk River near Charleston, West Virginia.

"The safety of our drinking water is our highest priority. Our water is safe and we are taking precautions to keep it safe. Our objective is to protect our water supply and reduce risk to protect public health," said Tony Parrott, Director of GCWW and the Metropolitan Sewer District Joint Utility Management.

GCWW shut down its intakes shortly before midnight on Tuesday, Jan. 14. The chemical, identified as 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, was detected in an up stream river sample late Tuesday evening. GCWW has been collecting samples between Maysville, KY and Cincinnati.

Once the chemical was detected in samples taken at the Meldahl Dam -- which is approximately 25 miles upstream of the Greater Cincinati Water Works' Richard Miller Treatment Plant -- GCWW shut its intakes to prevent Ohio River water from entering its facility.

The Elk River chemical spill arrived in the Cincinnati area and was detected in the Ohio River near GCWW’s Richard Miller Treatment Plant this morning at approximately 7 a.m.

GCWW is working closely with the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) to track the spill and conduct ongoing water sampling analysis. We anticipate the bulk of the spill to pass through our area within the next 24-to-48 hours, depending on river and weather conditions.

GCWW continues to supplement its water supply using its groundwater plant located in Fairfield. Customers should not experience a disruption in water service.

Original Message:

The Greater Cincinnati Water Works is carefully monitoring the Ohio River and taking all necessary precautions as a result of a chemical spill that occurred last week on the Elk River near Charleston, West Virginia. The Elk River feeds into an Ohio River tributary about 200 miles upstream of Cincinnati.

The chemical has been identified as 4-methylcyclohexame methanol (methl-cyclohexane methanol). This is used in the coal mining industry, specifically for coal washing and preparation.

The safety of our drinking water is the highest priority. Our objective is to protect our water supply.

Greater Cincinnati Water Works (GCWW) is working closely with the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) and other organizations to track the spill and conduct source water sampling to keep our water safe. ORSANCO uses 13 monitoring stations along the Ohio River to detect and warn treatment plants downstream about spills so they can take precautionary measures before the spill reaches their intakes.

The spill is expected to reach the Cincinnati area between 7 and 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014.

GCWW will shut down its intakes as a precautionary measure.

If needed, GCWW can supplement its water supply from the Bolton Treatment Plant in Fairfield, which is a groundwater plant. Source water from the Bolton Treatment Plant will not be affected by this spill.