Ohio River

Ryan Van Velzer

The multi-state commission overseeing water quality along the Ohio River has adopted voluntary pollution control standards nearly a year after member states considered a plan to abandon the standards entirely.

The plan will keep pollution control standards in place, but gives states more flexibility to implement their own water quality programs while ensuring standards are equally protective.

The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission approved the compromise plan in a 19-2 vote with one commissioner abstaining during the meeting held Thursday in Covington, Kentucky.

Janet Butler, USFWS

The Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge’s namesake is apparent upon stepping outside its visitors center in Williamstown, West Virginia. Gazing past bird feeders and the forested bank of the Ohio River, a skinny island looms large.

“So Buckley Island is right across the water from us,” says Michael Schramm, visitor services manager at the refuge.

Buckley Island is one of about 40 river islands spanning hundreds of miles of the Ohio River. The islands were formed by rock and gravel deposited during the Ice Age, and they serve as important habitat for wildlife on the Ohio River, including migrating birds. Over the years, as the river channel has deepened, some of the islands have eroded away. Today, the refuge manages 22.


Crews Begin Ohio River Coal Barge Recovery Operation

Jan 9, 2019
Kyeland Jackson

Crews started work Wednesday to salvage nine barges pinned against the McAlpine Dam on the Ohio River.

At a news conference detailing the operation, officials said Big River Salvage and McKinney Salvage will anchor an empty recovery barge upstream. Crews will then load coal onto the barge using two cranes.

Shawn Kenney, Assistant Operations Manager for the Army Corps of Engineers, said the operation will take weeks to finish.

“As far as expectations on the amount of time, that’s one thing that people should understand: It’s going to be a dynamic situation,” Kenney said. “[Crews] do have to move at a very measured pace to understand — make sure that they’re looking at everything closely.”

Ryan Van Velzer

A seventh barge has sunk in the Ohio River a week after a tugboat carrying coal to Trimble County hit the 2nd Street Bridge.

The incident began more than a week ago after 15 barges loaded with coal broke free from a tug boat just after 8 p.m. on Christmas Day.

The U.S. Coast Guard says the vessel’s owner, Tennessee Valley Towing, is sending in salvage teams that are expected to arrive Wednesday night.

JAGA / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

A multi-state commission charged with protecting the Ohio River decided Thursday to postpone a decision to dramatically alter pollution controls.

The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, or ORSANCO, has been considering a proposal that would reduce its oversight of water pollution control standards along the Ohio River. The proposal, called "option 2" would eliminate the body's water pollution control standards for industrial and municipal wastewater discharges into the river.

Becca Schimmel

After nearly 30 years of construction and a budget that rose into the billions, Olmsted Locks and Dam passed the first tow barge through its system at a ceremony Thursday on the Ohio River.

The $3 billion infrastructure improvement by the Army Corps of Engineers is the most expensive inland waterway project in U.S. history and is touted as the hub of the nation’s river navigation system.

“We know that this lock and dam is going to be here for decades and that’s a big deal,” Matt Lowe said. He was the project manager for Olmsted from 2012 to 2016 and he was in the crowd of dignitaries to dedicate the project at a ceremony Thursday. 


Rhonda J Miller

The agency with a mission to control and reduce pollution in the Ohio River is considering lowering water quality standards. The mayor of one riverfront city is urging the agency to maintain pollution controls.

Indiana, Kentucky and six other states are part of the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission.

In a letter to the commission this week, Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke said pollution controls must be enforced because the Ohio River provides drinking water to five million people and serves as a vital recreational resource.

hancockky.us

An Ohio company that’s developed an environmentally friendly process to manufacture chemicals used in paint and plastics is locating a facility in Hancock County that will create about 125 jobs. 

WhiteRock Pigments is investing nearly $180 million in a manufacturing operation near Hawesville. The company is renovating the former Alcoa building that has been vacant for nine years.

Henderson Water Utility

A new study has found that people who lived in the Ohio River Valley between 1991 and 2013 have higher levels of a chemical called PFOA in their bloodstream than the national average.

PFOA, also called C-8, is a toxic chemical that was used to make products including non-stick cookware for decades. Its impact on health is the subject of ongoing study; even small amounts are thought to cause larger body mass index in adults, negative responses to vaccines and smaller birth weight in babies.

PFOA was manufactured, among other places, at the DuPont plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia. That plant no longer uses PFOA, and as a result of a class action lawsuit and settlement, scientists found links between several types of cancers and PFOA exposure.

Yager Materials

A high school career coach in Daviess County is making sure students are aware of job opportunities created by the Ohio River. 

About 50 students from Apollo and Heritage Park high schools will go to the Owensboro Riverport and to Yager Materials, a company that builds and repairs barges.

Jeremy Camron  is the college and career readiness coach at Apollo High School. He says the Nov. 9 field trip called “Who Works the Rivers?” gives students a close-up look at, “…what it’s like to be a deckhand or a crane operator, or how you can become an electrician or an engineer on barge motors. All of those jobs may start in the $20,000 range, but their top end wage range is somewhere close to $100,000. You know, a riverboat captain is making $150,000 a year.”

The field trip includes a career fair at the Owensboro Museum of Science and History, where about a dozen companies will speak to students about river-based jobs. Camron says opportunities for river jobs are right in the students’ backyard.

“We’re fortunate that we’re located right on the Ohio River and we have a massive river port that’s developed, as well as Yager Materials that does a lot of work with barges. So there are a lot of high quality jobs for kids who just have a high school diploma want to go straight to work.”

The field trip is sponsored by RiverWorks Discovery, a program based at the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque, Iowa.

Annual Ohio River Sweep Saturday

Jun 16, 2015
Emil Moffatt

It’s time to clean up the Ohio River again this weekend.

Kentucky is one of six states that takes part in the annual volunteer project. Owensboro volunteers are asked to meet at eight o’clock Saturday morning at English Park. They’ll clean along the riverfront at the park and also around the Little Hurricane boat ramp.

If you’re going, wear clothes you’re not afraid to get dirty and closed toed shoes.

Last year Owensboro had 14 volunteers show up, this year they’d like to see 20.

All volunteers get a River Sweep-themed shirt and all the Starbucks coffee you can drink.

Creative Commons

Louisville’s Morris Forman treatment plant is still not fully functional after an electrical fire and power outage Wednesday night.

More than 100-million gallons of diluted sewage went into the Ohio River yesterday, and more continues to flow today. Some of that sewage was partially-treated, after Morris Forman began resuming some operations.

Some of it wasn’t treated at all, as the outage at the plant and rain caused the city’s combined sewer system to overflow into the river.

As of Friday morning, the sewage was still being discharged into the river, including at the Morris Forman site in Louisville’s Rubbertown neighborhood and at overflow sites around the city.

Metropolitan Sewer District officials are investigating the cause of the fire, but they say preliminary evidence suggests a lightning strike could be responsible.

It will be several days before the treatment plant is fully operational, but MSD spokesman Steve Tedder said the sewer overflows should stop sometime today, if there’s no more rain.

People are advised to avoid contact with the Ohio River and its tributaries.

Emil Moffatt

The city of Owensboro has embraced the Ohio River in recent years, hoping it will lead to a revitalization of the downtown area and now the city is awaiting the results of a study on whether a marina would help attract even more residents and visitors to the river.

“We’ve asked these consultants to come back and tell us about the possibility of building not a seasonal marina, but a year-round marina at English Park," said city manager Bill Parrish.  "It would be just down the road from our downtown redevelopment."

The city recently built a convention center by the Ohio River and two hotels are under construction.

Parrish says that the study is expected to be complete by April 1.  Part of that study involves a public comment session at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the police department community room.

“This is a study to see if a marina makes sense and what the cost might be.  We would be absolutely open to it being operated by the city, by a private entity or a public-private partnership of some type,” said Parrish.

Emil Moffatt

As early-morning fog gave way to a clear blue August sky, 30 teams dressed in bright-colored t-shirts climbed into narrow wooden boats, adorned with a dragon head in the front. The teams paddled out to the starting line in the middle of the Ohio River.  

Todd Petzold expressed cautious optimism as his team prepared to participate in the Owensboro Dragon Boat Festival for a second straight year.

“We’re team MPD, and we’re not going to sink this year. And we’re going to have fun,” said Petzold.

The teams were made up of between 15-20 people, including men and women. Their experience level ranged from veteran to novice.

They’re taking part in an athletic event and tradition whose origins date back to the year 278 B. C. in China and a man considered the father of Chinese poetry, Qu Yuan.

Kentucky transportation officials say a team headed by Chicago firm Walsh Construction Co. is the apparent winner of bidding to build a new bridge over the Ohio River between downtown Louisville and Jeffersonville, Ind. The Transportation Cabinet said the proposals were scored Thursday in Frankfort.