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Greater Cincinnati Water Works and Northern Kentucky Water District reopen Ohio River water intakes

Added precautions in place to keep drinking water safe
Ohio River.JPG
Posted at 1:00 PM, Feb 20, 2023

CINCINNATI — Greater Cincinnati Water Works (GCWW) and the Northern Kentucky Water District (NKWD) have reopened their water intakes from the Ohio River.

The intakes were closed over the weekend as a precautionary measure while water contaminated from East Palestine passed through the Cincinnati area.

"After extensive sampling of river water Sunday through Monday morning, there have been no detections of the specific chemicals from the train derailment," the city of Cincinnati said in a press release.

NKWD said low levels of butyl acrylate were detected in the Ohio River upstream of Cincinnati, which led to water intakes being closed. Butyl acrylate is a chemical used in arts and crafts, adhesives, flooring, sinks, and bathtubs.

The chemical has not been detected in the Tri-State.

A different chemical compound called 2-Ethyl-1-hexanol was found locally while water intake was closed. The compound is commonly used in industrial applications for flavoring and fragrances.

GCWW said it wasn't definitive if that compound came from the East Palestine train derailment.

Both organizations deemed it safe to reopen the water intakes.

“Maintaining the safety of our community’s drinking water is our highest priority,” said Lindsey Rechtin, President & CEO of NKWD. “The response to this Ohio River spill event has been extraordinary. I cannot express enough gratitude to all NKWD staff for their efforts to ensure that our community’s drinking water supply remains safe and reliable. Moreover, the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) and Thomas More University have been incredible partners throughout this event. As a community member, I am grateful to know that the health of my family is safe because of their efforts.”

Greater Cincinnati Water Works has some processes already in place to make sure the water coming our of your tap at home is safe.

They remove particles like dirt. They also run the water through granular carbon to remove chemicals.

"The chemicals have been absorbed onto the activated carbon and then when the water passes out those chemicals are not present," said Jeff Swertfeger, the Superintendent of Water Quality Treatment at Greater Cincinnati Water Works.

When GCWW reopened water intakes from the river, they added another water treatment step: letting the water pass through powdered activated carbon.

"That does the exact same thing as a granular activated carbon does. It absorbs the chemical contaminants that are in the water," Swertfeger said.

It also adds another barrier to make sure the carbon catches all of the chemicals.

The other main precaution is testing.

GCWW said it is continuing to monitor and sample the Ohio River. Testing results can be found here.

"We have people working 24/7 to look at the data and make sure that our treatment processes is operating as efficiently as possible," Swertfeger said.

NKWD said it has resumed normal operations, and that its "state-of-the art" treatment processes are in place to ensure that the drinking water is safe.

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