ORSANCO head to go before Congress to talk about East Palestine response
A Senate committee studying the East Palestine train derailment and its impact on the environment has summoned the head of the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission to Washington this week.
Executive Director and Chief Engineer Richard Harrison is one of five people scheduled to appear before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works Thursday morning.
Here's who is testifying:
- Alan Shaw, president and CEO, Norfolk Southern Corporation
- Debra Shore, regional administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region V
- Anne Vogel, director, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency
- Richard Harrison, executive director and chief engineer, Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission
- Eric Brewer, director and chief of hazardous materials response, Beaver County Department of Emergency Services
Harrison will explain how drinking water utilities up and down the Ohio River operate ORSANCO's equipment and test for contamination, like they did with the East Palestine train derailment.
"Our detection system was able to let us know that —through a small detection that one of these chemicals, butyl acrylate — was already making its way to the Ohio River," Harrison says. "We weren't sure it would make it. And so that really started our very robust response to that."
That robust response involved taking samples above and below where they thought the contamination was. Harrison says his agency then predicts when that water will get to a certain point. Right after the derailment, the Ohio River was moving 25 mph and then there was heavy rain and that tripled the flow.
Some of his detection equipment is now 10 years old.
ORSANCO's equipment is aging and needs to be replaced. "GC mass spectrometers, GC FIDs continuous monitoring systems, and all of these varying in cost with the GC mass specs, and there are nine of them, are the ones we really relied on during our most recent spill," he says.
Harrison is asking for $5 million in federal funding to replace 16 pieces of equipment.