Beckjord Plant diesel spill, impact reflects Ohio River's industrial legacy

Local water safe to drink; spill dangers constant

NEW RICHMOND, Ohio--One local Ohio River researcher found reasons to be grateful as well as causes for ongoing concern after thousands of gallons of diesel fuel spilled seven miles upriver from Greater Cincinnati’s three water supply valves late Monday night.

The valves remain closed as the clean-up continues. Officials said regional water supplies never showed signs of contamination. The spill passed through downtown Cincinnati some time Tuesday morning.

Local, state and federal agencies responded quickly to the spill in part because several of them have headquarters in Cincinnati, said Christopher Lorentz of Thomas More College, who measures the health of the Ohio River by sampling fish populations near Duke Energy’s Beckjord Plant in New Richmond, Ohio, where the spill occurred.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Ohio E.P.A. and the U.S. Coast Guard all have local offices and reached the spill site quickly. The Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO), which represents eight states and provides an additional layer of oversight. is headquartered nearby and continues to monitor the spill.

“We’re fortunate,” said Lorentz, who directs Thomas More’s biology field station, which sits just two miles upstream from the 60-year-old, coal-fired Beckjord Plant. He said the concentration of agencies, one of which is solely focused on the Ohio River, makes Greater Cincinnati unique.

Still, aquatic life will suffer because of the spill, which represents a more ominous and chronic danger, according to Lorentz.

Insiders can read what worries Lorentz and other river watchers the most, and find out how he connects this incident with Toledo's recent water crisis.

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