Ohio River

Jeff Young

A proposal to repurpose a docking facility near Marietta, Ohio, to allow for the barging of oil and gas drilling waste on the Ohio River is drawing concern from environmental groups and local residents.

Ohio-based DeepRock Disposal Solutions LLC is seeking approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Huntington District to operate a barge offloading facility to transfer the waste to existing storage tanks. The proposal indicates the loading facility can accommodate a 300-foot-long barge that is 54 feet wide. 

It is the third barging proposal this year being considered by federal regulators. A proposal near Martins Ferry, Ohio, and one near Portland, Ohio, both to build new barging loading facilities have already been approved.

Ohio River Regulators Planning Riverwide PFAS Study

Feb 5, 2020
Ryan Van Velzer

Scientists are designing a new study to test for PFAS, so-called “forever chemicals”, along the entire length of the Ohio River. Concerns are mounting about PFAS contamination in drinking water systems along the Ohio Valley. Studies have shown the contaminants in the drinking water of dozens of cities.

The scientists work with a multi-state commission charged with overseeing water quality on the Ohio River known as the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO).

The commission’s work has always included monitoring pollution in the river and it makes sense to examine these emerging contaminants, executive director Richard Harrison said.


Alexandra Kanik

Just before dawn in January 2018, 27 barges were floating like a net along the banks of the Ohio River, downstream of the city of Pittsburgh. Instead of fish, the fleet caught chunks of ice that broke off in the warming, fast-moving waters as it waited for a tow through the nearby Emsworth Locks and Dams.

The area had experienced record rainfall, and the river rose more than 12 feet in about 30 hours. The barges, some loaded with coal and cement, were lashed together with steel cables in a grid-like pattern, then secured to pilings equipped with large metal mooring rings.


Recent Toxic Algal Blooms Gone From Ohio River

Nov 7, 2019
Ashlie Stevens | WFPL

The Ohio River is free from harmful levels of toxic algae after more than a month of recreational public health advisories, according to the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet.

The cabinet lifted recreation public health advisories along the Ohio River on Thursday after recent water samples showed a decline in toxic algae.

The algae first formed in late September when drought conditions paired with hot temperatures produced blooms along a 300-mile stretch of the Ohio River. The blooms resulted in the cancellation of the Great Ohio River Swim in Cincinnati and the swimming portion of Louisville’s Iron Man Competition.

Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet

As nearly 10,000 people descended on the small town of Owenton, Kentucky, for the annual county fair earlier this month, so too did the miles-long bourbon plume leftover from the fire at the Jim Beam warehouse upriver from the drinking water supply.

In the wake of the bourbon spill, thousands of fish died as dissolved oxygen levels plummeted in the Kentucky River.

But when Owen County residents turned on their taps, nothing but cool clean water came out.

Bourbon Plume Reaches Louisville’s Drinking Water

Jul 10, 2019
Ashlie Stevens/WFPL

The bourbon plume from last week’s Jim Beam warehouse fire has floated to Louisville’s drinking water intake in the Ohio River.

The Louisville Water Company says the city’s drinking water supply is safe, but the utility has adjusted its treatment strategy to protect the taste of the water and absorb any lingering odors.

“So Louisville Water has added a little bit of extra carbon to our water. Customers will not notice a difference at all,” said spokeswoman Kelley Dearing Smith.

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.

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