Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Cincinnati Water Works: Drinking water not threatened by chemical plume in Ohio River

A large plume of smoke rises over houses on a street in East Palestine, Ohio.
Gene J. Puskar
A large plume of smoke rises over East Palestine, Ohio, after a controlled detonation of a portion of the derailed Norfolk Southern trains Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. About 50 cars, including 10 carrying hazardous materials, derailed in a fiery crash. Federal investigators say a mechanical issue with a rail car axle caused the derailment.

Greater Cincinnati Water Works says there's no need to panic about a chemical plume making its way down the Ohio River. The chemicals, including butyl acrylate, are believed to have come from a train derailment in East Palestine earlier this month.

Water Quality Superintendent Jeff Swertfeger says Water Works has been paying attention since the initial spill. "We filter all the city's drinking water through charcoal anyway, and during emergencies like this, we have another step where we can add charcoal earlier in the treatment process to give us a little more oomph with that removal," he says. "So with the charcoal, we found out that the chlorine that we use every day for disinfecting the water does a great job of destroying it as well."

RELATED: East Palestine evacuation lifted allowing residents to return home

Swertfeger says the highest concentration of the chemical reported has been four parts per billion. The EPA determines 560 parts per billion would be harmful.

The plume is expected to reach the Cincinnati area in about a week. "We're doing a lot of testing to figure out well before it gets here, and we'll start doing this extra treatment to remove it. And … testing will show when it's safe that we can go back to our normal treatment. This is something we’re able to treat for pretty readily."

GCWW started preparations over the weekend.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.