Utility monitoring chemical spill as it approaches Evansville

The latest information from the Evansville Water & Sewer Utility (EWSU) is that the chemical spill from the Elk River in Charleston, West Virginia, is estimated to reach Evansville around 12:30 a.m. on Monday.

The EWSU was also notified by ORSANCO (Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission) that the plume will reach the Newburgh Lock and Dam around 5:00 p.m. Sunday.

On Saturday morning, information was released on Mayor Lloyd Winnecke's social media pages saying there are several factors that have led to the Utility's decision not close its water intake valves when the chemical spill passes through the Evansville area. Those reasons are:

- "As governmental, regional and other municipal authorities have advised and reported, the health risk exposure is and will continue to be well below recommended levels. The CDC has recommended a standard of one part per million for the chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM). Cincinnati levels were one to three percent of the CDC standard. Louisville treated its water with activated carbon and did not find any detectable amounts of MCHM. And, chemical levels will continue to decline as the chemical spill is diluted by the Ohio River. Evansville is hundreds of miles from where the chemical spill occurred. EWSU has sent staff to Louisville to gain firsthand information of any detectable amounts of MCHM and is prepared to use similar activated carbon filtration to sustain water quality standards here."

- "Closing EWSU's water intake valve would cause significant problems for the City. Because the Ohio River flows at a rate between two to three miles per hour, it is estimated it would take 24 to 30 hours for the spill to pass Evansville. If EWSU closed the intake valves, during this amount of time, the City would not have adequate water pressure for fire protection. Businesses would not be able to operate with proper sanitation systems, and hospitals and laboratories dependent on water supplies would be without this vital resource.

Individuals can ultimately make the choice to prepare for alternative sources of water, such as bottled water, as the chemical plume passes through the Ohio River and works its way through the entire system. Evansville is fortunate to have received advanced warning and tracking from other cities and Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission. In addition, EWSU is prepared to employ appropriate filtration (activated carbon) to test and purify the water well in advance of the plume's arrival."

The Utility says it will conduct routine tests on Evansville's intake water daily, as usual, to determine the water quality level.

EWSU is planning to apply its activated carbon mixture material to all intake water beginning Sunday afternoon and will continue that method of treatment until it's confirmed that the spill has completely passed EWSU water intake valves.

The carbon treatments will act to absorb any organic contaminants in the river water.

EWSU now a has web page with more information about the chemical spill plume.  CLICK HERE for details and answers to some frequently asked questions.

EWSU says it will continue to update the web site as more information becomes available.

You can also follow @EvansvilleINGov on Twitter and hash tag #WVChemleakEVV for updates.

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