Statement Re: Charleston, W.Va., chemical spill and its downstream impact on Evansville’s Water Supply



City of Evansville Seal

The Evansville Water & Sewer Utility (EWSU) has been closely monitoring the impact and issues stemming from the chemical spill, which occurred in Charleston, West Virginia, last week – 700 river miles from Evansville. EWSU is obtaining regular updates and information from the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO), the Coast Guard, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM).

The exact time when the chemical plume will reach the Evansville area – and the concentration level – is yet to be determined, as it is dependent upon several factors, including the flow rate (miles per hour) and rain events. The river levels between the dams along the Ohio River will affect its arrival; although, it is estimated to reach our area by the weekend, according to the Coast Guard.

EWSU will examine two key issues as the plume nears our City:

  1. The concentration of the chemical in the Ohio River – The Utility uses monitoring systems – gas chromatograph (GC) at its intake building and gas chromatograph mass spectrometer (GCMS) in the water plant lab. Those systems are used to determine if any of the chemical is detectable at our location.
  2. Whether the chemical floats on the surface, mixes completely or sinks – The City’s water intake pumps pull water at a depth of several feet from the river bottom. The dilution effect at the Ohio River will have a large bearing on the level of detection in Evansville.

The contaminants from this spill are being monitored at several points along the Ohio River, including Huntington, W. Va.; Ashland, Ky.; Maysville, Ky.; Portsmouth, Ohio; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Louisville, Ky. EWSU receives concentration reports from each location. A report yesterday showed a concentration of 36 parts per billion (ppb) at Huntington, W. Va. The Evansville Water Utility will use carbon treatment if any level of the chemical is detected. This method of treatment has been used effectively by other water

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utilities affected by this chemical spill. Also, this particular chemical omits a sweet odor even at very low concentrations. The carbon treatment will help minimize an odor that might be present.

The Utility will conduct routine tests on the intake water daily, as usual; however, the organic components will be more closely watched. The Utility is planning to apply its activated carbon mixture material to all intake water, which will act to absorb any organic contaminants in the river water. Additionally, the Utility will look at the GC and GCMS readouts for 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM) contamination.

The Evansville Water & Sewer Utility is a member of ORSANCO and coordinates monitoring and policy matters with and through that organization. EWSU’s equipment is tied with ORSANCO’s monitoring system via the Internet, enabling the Utility to draw from ORSANCO’s expertise in reading scans and making determinations regarding questionable components that may be observed in the intake water. EWSU is in constant contact with ORSANCO and the Coast Guard on any spills that occur along the Ohio River from Pittsburgh, Pa, to Cairo, Ill., where the Ohio River discharges into the Mississippi River.

We will continue to keep the community informed as we learn more about the spill’s impact to Evansville’s water supply.


  1. And to think, republicans think we need LESS regulation. Those tanks hadn’t been inspected since 1991! Sadly, the owners will suffer no consequences. “I pledge allegiance, to the flag, of the United Staes of Corporations….”

    • Exactly! If this was an actual human person, they would already be hung up in the town square, but a corporation person can do this every day if they want to. Tax dollars will clean it up, people will pay with their health, but the company may only receive a fine that is the equivalent of an hour income to them, and it will takes years of court to extract even that.

    • and whose watch has the last 5 years of negligence been on? If you think Obama and the Democrats are different you are sadly mistaken. Since 1991 there have been Democrats in the White house for 13 years and Republicans for 9. Who dropped the ball now?

      • The “person” who dropped the ball was Freedom Industries and should be held accountable. We should not get drawn into an argument trying to pin blame on the Republican or Democrat parties. That only serves to take our eye off Freedom Industries. Why not inspect the tanks for 23 years? On their own? Do they really need a government inspector to do the right thing? Well then I guess you cannot self-regulate after all.

        • Agreed, sometimes that Ghost person needs to be smacked back to reality. Blame both or blame neither. 99% of companies will self regulate. The trouble is that a very few can do massive damage. I guess the governments laws and regulations did not force any action either. It is the same with nuclear weapons. One trigger happy fool and we all get smoked. For people who don’t care a herd of government inspectors will not get them to do the right thing. No government has ever been invented that can catch a rogue operator.

          • But that is like saying no one can invent a perpetual motion machine. So because no one can invent an internal combustion engine that doesn’t waste energy at least some energy we should all start walking????

            That’s the same lame argument the gun lobby uses. That you can’t catch everybody so we should catch no one??

            Should we take take all the speed limit signs we can’t catch all the speeders?

            Pure tautology!!

      • Only one side has been squawking like a parrot about tax cuts and deregulation for 40+ years.

        • And the other side has been squawking like a parrot about class warfare and social justice that is not a balanced answer either. Squawking ain’t legislating. Both sides have been in power and neither has implemented a working solution.

        • Indeed! If agencies charged with doing inspections are understaffed and underfunded, they really can’t get their jobs done, now can they?

          • 22 years?? Please. Both sides dropped the ball on inspection scheduling. With just one inspector in the whole country they could have checked this thing out in less than 22 years. There are no shortage of inspectors driving the coal mines out of business. This is just more government ineptness mixed with corporate irresponsibility.

    • Evansville had better hope that chemical does not react with raw sewage. If it does the river may burn.

  2. Like I said, allowing yourselves to get drawn into a partisan battle over blame and bs only serves to protect Freedom Industries from consequences. Let’s keep our focus on FI. Politicians and media should focus on that company and start naming names. Expose these greedy, lazy pigs who couldn’t get up off their asses for 23 years to check out their tanks.

    • Yes lets. Lets also see what government agency is in charge of inspections and examine what they have been doing for the last 22 years. Everything they have done including sitting on their lazy asses has had a higher priority than these tanks.

      • Well then, keep it local. From Shelley Moore Capito’s (R-WV) .gov site: “As a co-chair of the Congressional Coal Caucus, Congresswoman Capito is a leader in the fight against excessive and unnecessary regulations from the EPA and other federal agencies aimed at reducing both the production of and the demand for West Virginia coal.”
        Should probably start the ball rolling there. I wonder how much Freedom contributed to her campaign funds over the years in exchange for their grandfather clauses and other exemptions and abatements. THAT is the real story here, not whether or not you can pin this squarely on Obama.

    • Yup, 23 years,THUD,CRACK,BOOM!Not a frost quake from Canada,it was the ball hitting the ground in west Virginia. When designing and marketing clean water systems the manufacturers must be able to show results that back their claims.
      Whats wrong with this picture? How can a water utility back their claim for clean potable water systems without the proper testing and research of design.

      People get a water filter check the brand claims shop a bit for best results for potable needs. And if you do purchase bottled water “read the label” for content sources. Sometimes the actual tap water tested per/prototype filter designs, turned out to more viable as a pure source than some bottled sources.

      Like anything else yourself, or anyone else must depend on the purchase, use your critical thinking skills with your potable drinking water, as well.
      “I’m personally going to monitor my peoples supplies there at a variation of locations,and record the results forward. “Historically, in light of your EPA mandate situation,I feel it’s prudent,as such.So.

      Manufacturing and other vendor suppliers,including municipal systems,must back the claims with provable viable data. (Quality/safety standards.)

      Could be why the “real life” Erin Brockovich was on site in West Virginia yesterday.

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