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Chemical leak from West Virginia arrives in the Tri-State

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Experts: More questions than answers about spill

CINCINNATI -- A chemical leak from West Virginia made its way to the Tri-State late Tuesday night by way of the Ohio River, according to Cincinnati Water Works.

Greater Cincinnati Water Works said the chemical was identified in an upstream river sample late Tuesday evening. The sample came from the water at Meldahl dam, about 25 miles upstream from the city's treatment plant.

GCWW has been collecting samples between Maysville, Ky. and Cincinnati. They will continue to monitor the water until the chemical fully passes through our area. They expect the spill to pass within the next 24 to 48 hours.

Experts said residents won’t need to see the pollution to know it’s there: They can smell it.

Officials said it has a distinct licorice smell -- but it is not impacting the region’s drinking water.

"We have asked the people at the locks and dams to report to us when they smell it,” said Jerry Schulte of the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission Tuesday. “We had a report, actually, from Maysville. They smelled it at 5 a.m."

Cincinnati Water Works shut off valves that carrying the water into the area at 11:45 p.m. Tuesday and are useing water reserves, as well as water from upstream of the Ohio, until officials deem the water safe from the chemical, Crude MCHM, or 4-Methylcyclohexanemethanol.

Crude MCHM, which few scientists were familiar with before the discovery of the spill last week, cleans impurities like sulfur and other pollutants from coal during its processing. Its leak left hundreds of thousands of West Virginians without tap water and with lots of unanswered questions.

When the chemical arrived in the Cincinnati area, it traveled more than 200 miles. The river is moving at 3 mph, which is considered fast.

According to officials, the pollution should only spend about 20 hours in the Tri-State before heading toward Kentucky's largest city.

"I am beginning to work the City of Louisville and the water utility of Louisville to see what type of support we can provide them," Schulte said.

Schulte said water contamination events like this happen about every ten years.

RELATED: Read a full breakdown of the chemical leak and what local experts have to say

Copyright 2014 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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