IS IT TRUE: Valley Watch Checks in on the West Virginia Toxic Spill


toxic spill

IS IT TRUE the CCO believes the following assessment of the toxic spill headed our way by John Blair of Valley Watch is worthy of publishing for this Saturday’s version of IIT?

I had a discussion with someone this morning about the chemical spill headed our way. The worry expressed gave me reason to write this.

I told the person that I thought the stress that was being experienced was likely a greater threat to human health and the relatively low concentrations of the chemical that will be seen in Evansville by the time it gets here and assuming that Wendy’s discussion with Alan Mounts at the Water utility was valid and that the leak has been stopped and is not on going. Frankly, I was concerned with the seeming dismissive attitude of Wendy’s questions by Mr. Mounts

It is also true that activated carbon is a great way to remove hydrocarbons from water, although I am left to wonder what happens to the waste activated carbon that is now tainted with the chemicals it has removed. But if Mounts is right and the concentration of the chemical is below 35 PPB, I see little reason for stressful worry and the best thing to do is to simply not drink local water or take long showers or baths until the slug has passed.

I have more to say but do not have time right now to write a broader thesis on this subject. However, we would all realize that we are routinely exposed to a wide array of toxic substances every day. Each year, the polluters around us emit upwards of 58 million pound of toxic air pollution, some of which reaches us EVERY DAY regardless of the direction of the wind. Once while on the river I discovered about a dozen empty herbicide containers afloat.

When I first started dealing with these issues, there had been a study done that revealed that 450 different chemicals had been identified in Ohio River water. Around that time, too, we had a huge carbon tetrachloride spill from the FMC Corp way up river and a couple of nasty hydrocarbon chemicals call hexa and octa that were not only a threat to our water but closed down Louisville’s Morris Foreman Treatment plant for nearly a year forcing Louisville to dump more than 100 million gallons each and every day for more than a year.

As a result of those problems ORSANCO developed a great “early warning system” to track this sort of problem and I am confident it will be used effectively in the days to come as this slug of nastiness moves down river.

Last, our drinking water source is the Ohio River. When Valley Watch first formed there was little but non sport fish in it. Today, there are many more species that seem to be thriving. We are making progress due to regulations and technology. We are fortunate here to have a system of activated carbon treatment that can remove most of these nasty hydrocarbons and I reiterate: stress about this is likely to cause you and your loved ones more health issues than a rather limited concentration of a toxic chemical passing us by, especially with good treatment.

John Blair


  1. If terrorists had done this we would have already invaded the wrong country by now. Since it’s a corporation, they’ve already filed bankruptcy and have gotten away with it scott free. Gotta love ‘Murica.

    • As the Grapes of Wrath meander down the Ohio River toward E-Ville we shall Rage Against the Machine that unleashed them!

      • But do we learn anything from the experience? In most cases zero, nada, zip. Sad commentary indeed.

        • Learn? Maybe. Rage? Always. Implementation or lack thereof is the biggest problem that our society earns a big nada for.

          • Is it fear, expense, stupidity, laziness, lack of power to act or being overwhelmed that causes the majority of folks to stay stagnant? I will admit that there are times I feel hopeless or helpless. Someone always pops up and says the answer is to vote, which does help I guess. But scientists who have understood this problem for years are bald now due pulling their hair out because no one has been listening. As long as big business can buy its way to where it wants to go, the fight will be long, hard and bloody. I am old too gentlemen but not so old as to stop believing that one day I will see a world made better by one thing I have done. I can claw with the best of them.

        • My definition of success is leaving things better than I found them. But at my age and despite all my best efforts, I am beginning to think that the world will be the same when I leave it as it was when I entered it. Technology changes, but people don’t.

          But I learn, and I love it. Just don’t drink the water. 🙂

          • You know enoch, I’m older also. And what pisses me off more than anything else is knowing so many problems that I would like resolved before I bite the dust will not be – because of – “Technology changes, but people don’t.”


    • You nailed it, Ghost. I don’t usually drink the water and I don’t give it to my pets, either.

          • I wonder? John Blair, If thats the same fella,that had the “moon parties” on the river years back in the early nineties.
            Dang,used to hit the river down there below dead man’s island with ole spud,family and the boating crews from vanderburgh some weekends. Whew……Indeed. “that splains allot”.

            Identifying sequestering,and finding solutions,to real clean water and climate change issues are working a well.

            Creating viable environmental solutions through science,engineering,and biomedical chemical and geophysical research building the future by elevated,improved products, and viability in process improvements.

            Good jobs,careers hammered in place for the long run with built in, planned and balanced pathway sustainabilities for the future,moved forward*.

            Watching vs fixing. Sorry John,the last time they inspected the WV Freedom Industries site was in 1991,bout the time I had my family beginning to water ski out there,with ole cuz. Great family fun at that.

            I feel the passion as well as anybody,however finding the solutions takes action that goes beyond watching.

            “The endocrinology issue”warning pregnant women to avoid it grabs my attention,that’s huge we’re supposed to be building a better world here people.

            The actual MSD on that stuff hasn’t seen the light of day per issue since 1997, So.

            Likely the failure is a thermodynamic reactive problem,and that makes me wonder at what rate the stuff has been leaking and for how long before it went to catastrophic failure.
            I think of storage tanks and thermal conductivity of material substance and its mass,

            [condensation contamination overtime in the sump well of the storage tank] Anyone who has ever checked a fuel storage tank with a pogo moisture stick knows the issue at hand.
            Especially,with JP types,and AVgas. [used to be “got prist?”]

            When was the last time the storage tanks have seen the ambient ranges/spans/per/times,they have over the last few weeks?

            The substance itself conditional per ambient temperature and excessive moisture in the sump well,freezing expanding,and causing a storage tank depredation and failed inner wall.
            Sounds like that wasn’t done during the extreme weather,or was it? or has it ever been? ……


            Climate Change actions needed with infrastructure and industrial chemical process improvements required,aye.

            “any man who drives safely while kissing a pretty girl,is simply,not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.”

            (Albert Einstein)

          • V-is-to-R, The CCO should publish a book of your comments. Wit is an intellectual endeavor.

            Send me a stamped and addressed envelope with a blank check, and I’ll be the first to donate to the project.

            If you send a check send two. I would would say three but fool me once and fool me twice might come into play. The judge would say it was my fault.

          • Sometimes I “stretch” the water with a little Maker’s Mark. The dogs and cat don’t get any of that, though.

        • My preference is spring water, but sometimes settle for regular bottled stuff. I have really been trying to drink the tap water, and this happens.

          • It is difficult to get a handle on water of any kind. Bottled water is many times just tap water from another location, and what spring are we talking about anyway?? Local water has gone downhill so much since my youth. Sigh…

            I realize that the H2O facility does its best and that the water is tested to be safe but I understand where you are coming from. Water and food are the next two major life issues that will be upon us world wide. People need to pay much more attention and take less for granted.

          • @ Martha, food and water are necessary, but technology can/might deal with that concern.

            My concern though is that technology is creating super bugs through over prescription of antibiotics and anti bacterial cleansers.

            My next concern is economic collapse. That would be ugly. We can’t keep increasing our debt.

        • Kool-Aid, what else? Mixed from the finest Chicago River water, certified pure by Rahm and No-Hopey himself.

    • Filing maybe premature? How long do they have to amend the original filing. Surely they will have lawsuits filed against them that are post filing date.

  2. John, thank you for all your hard work in this region. I appreciate what you’re fighting for and how you’re fighting for it. I feel like you are genuinely committed to accomplishing a green Tri-State while the Nature Nazis just use it as a reason to gain power and money.

    I hope the CCO gives you a Mole Award one of these years!

    • I definitely agree with you Jordan.
      John, you provide a wonderful service to all the tri-state area. I am sure that many do not realize what Eco-serve along with other groups have accomplished for us. Please keep up the good fight.
      How is the Rockport situation coming along?

      • Agreed, but be very wary of “green energy” companies that show an interest in locating in E’ville. We don’t have a good track record with them.

      • Thats 24,000 in the US.
        easy as, wiki/coal/environmental effects/

        Basically as we move forward,we need to observe coal for what it is from the start,stored carbon energy. Its uses have,and are evolving as applied to the times. Coal is a resource pathway we can access the planets stored energy through. The economy today relies on the capture process by which we devise the best application to exploit the planets reserves with coal resources.

        Clean coal technology is a horizon within reach here in the US. Processes define the cost vs the benefits with the industry.

        I’m open to that,however the outdated established uses are obviously not producing the overall social,economic well being we consider acceptable by today’s standards in overall impacts and those affected ecological environments.
        Carbon technology has as many uses,just as the gravity,pressures and geothermodynamics that formed it and hold it together.
        Simple,we need to find ways to use the resource better,and that per cost.
        To me,all the staging,all the oration,and all the compromise doesn’t really mean squat,the real issue is the process improvements needed to retain and grow the industries blended use portfolio.So as much,as So.

        How many highway/roadway fatalities and the timing applied reductions per/year due to “actual crashes” really have a single root cause.
        Everyones issue “flaunts the perceived causes”,truth to be known,actually its probably the improvements over the years in the interstate highway system,and the safety features in the newer automobiles like airbags and seatbelt technology with other newer transportation infrastructures that decreased the fatalities and percentages.
        Blending process applications with a common objectives,thus an attainable goal forward. Cutting the bovinian scatology,and all the geo-secular,regional,push polling numbers games,and creating better processes throughout each application solves the real issues.
        Everything else is just a tag along.

        And Martha,air,and gravity with the geophysical magnetic core and thus our balanced and sustained* planet atmospheric layering are also definite needs,as well.
        Without those,snap,pop crackle! No water,no us,no life,clean,or nasty,pretty much. Forever.

        “sometimes one pays the most for the things one gets for nothing.” (Albert Einstein)

        • +1 especially blended use comments. Clean coal is not the only answer it is just another round in the chamber.

          • According to an article in the C&P, the special smoke stack modifications and filters that produce “clean coal” are leading to more contaminated water. So cleaner air = dirtier water. I don’t buy “clean coal”. Don’t think there is anything clean about it. If we can minimize and improve its use and augment it greatly with clean energy sources ie solar, wind, geothermal and other things that I am sure V_is_to _R will mention, then we will have something. But there is a finite amount of the black stuff, and mining it is a nasty business all the way around. Circle back to the spill in the river.

        • A million watts here, a million watts there, and pretty soon you’re talking real energy.

          It seems to me that we are looking for alternative energy that will replace our current energy when alternative energy as supplement might be a good answer.

          I would get right on that, but I have this stomach aliment that I need to medicate three times a day off the dollar menu.

          • IE,
            This is a reply to one of your earlier posts which did not have a reply button.

            I too am concerned about the dramatic overuse of antibiotics which has to be gotten under control. This practice has inflicted much harm and is dangerous.

            However we can’t eat technology and I think that it is not the answer to the hunger and lack of clean water that is in our future if practices are not changed pretty quickly.

            You mentioned enonomic collapse also.

            It would seem to me that for the last two concerns a good dose of people wearing a 1967-8 button which stated “Stop at 2” might be appropriate. If we get the human population under control worldwide (I know that is asking for a miracle), we would then be able to better deal food and water supplies. We could get a handle on the economy because the population would stay at a stable number. It would be easier to feed, provide health care, employ etc everyone. I know you won’t buy this idea. And everyone would have to buy in all over the world, but Hey, I did my part and more. I stopped at zero. But my cousin had four. Guess we cancelled each other out.

          • @ Martha, I am pro-life, but not against contraceptives or responsible family planning. I think we should be aware of population pressure, but I also have confidence of some very smart people who can increase food, water, and energy beyond what we can imagine.

            Even now there is enough to feed the world.

            According to the article, poverty, economic systems and war are the problems.

            From my time in Honduras I learned that another problem is how people think about economics. Third world countries with a peasant cultural structure view the world as as a sum total, that there is only so much and if one does better he must have taken from another. Therefore, change is difficult for these nations.

            We tend to believe is that all we have to do is throw money at the problem and it will be solved. I have seen that cause a lot of problems on the mission field.

            The way people think has to change, and that can take generations if ever.

            It’s complicated.

        • John according to my research Southern Indiana dumps 50 million metric tons of pollutants into the air annually. When you factor in Western Kentucky the number reaches 80 million metric tons. The Duke Energy’s Gibson Generating Plant is ranked 6th nationally in the amount of pollutants released into the air. We all owe this to “Clean Coal” we are killing ourselves and our children for an energy sources that when the medical costs are factored in is extremely costly. While the cost of coal has gone up 13% the cost of solar has decreased 80%. We are killing ourselves with a dying industry. We should demand from our legislators new clean industries for the toilet bowl of Indiana instead of keeping those jobs up in the Northern part of the state.

  3. Why put the people of Evansville in harm’s way. Why would the water utilities even consider contaminating Evansville’s pipelines with these hazardous chemicals, regardless what the authorities say is acceptable for humans. Once the pipelines are contaminated there will be no turning back. The only question will be what long term exposer from the lingering amounts of hazardous material left inside our home pipelines. The Evansville water and utilizes operations are very questionable and have been for many years, projects as well as financial. The do nothing approach used by former GM Harry Lawson put Evansville on the EPA’S list. The current GM Allen Mounts approach, we’ll do what we want, leaves taxpayers with a no confidence attitude towards current management. There are special examples of this throughout the city. Raising water rates 70% after purchasing a whole new fleet of vehicles, and claims this will help solve our water woes, while large companies are exempt from paying their fair share, holds no weight with the taxpayers. The dumping of raw sewage into the Ohio River, as well as the tributary along the Ohio River violating federal guidelines on sewer projects like Cave Ave. and Mt. Auburn Road for example. The Honorable Richard Lugar acquired a grant for the Mt. Auburn project. Several questions of violations have been ignored, our quality of life, health hazards spills and financial hardships. Our country has made many mistakes. In the sixties smoking was consider healthy, and lead paint was okay, no one thought of the long term effects. Current management has failed, past management has failed. How many more excuses and how much more hard earned money will the taxpayers need to sacrifice, we need new thinking no old policies.

    • Thank you, Debbie. I wasn’t aware of the Mt. Auburn/Cave Ave sewer project, but it is good information.
      I read labels and try to research what I feed my family and myself, so I can exercise some control over the safety of the foods we eat. I even avoid the City water, although keeping up with the true content of bottled water can be tricky, to say the least. It is a sad state of affairs when we need to do “research” before we do our grocery shopping, but we’re there.
      The thing we really can’t “monitor” for ourselves is air quality, and I am forever grateful to John Blair and Valley Watch for their endeavors in that arena.
      As a life-long asthmatic (third generation, that I know of) I can tell you first-hand that most people don’t have proper appreciation for drawing unimpeded breaths. We need to put more emphasis on air quality and worry less about the jobs the coal industry supports. It’s a silly argument to have. I’m pretty sure that producing “green” energy will support as many jobs, and the retirees from those jobs won’t be suffering from “black lung.”

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