Louisville’s water is clean, city says, with barges loose on Ohio River. What happens next?

The city’s water is deemed safe for consumption, however, Louisville officials caution that the appearance of the McAlpine Dam area along the Ohio River may not be visually appealing.

As per the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, one of the ships that remains in the water is transporting 1,400 tons of the substance methanol and is currently “partially immersed.” Approximately twelve barges became untethered in the early hours of Tuesday along the water route, with three eventually coming to rest against the dam in the western part of Louisville.

Louisville Metro Emergency Services stated that there is “no evidence” of a tank breach or any leaks. However, they are continuously monitoring the air and water quality in the city. The company emphasized that the city’s water quality remains unaffected, as the dam is situated downstream from the Louisville Water Co.’S water intake.

“Your drinking water is secure,” company representative Kathleen Speicher stated on Tuesday evening.

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Here’s a brief overview of the events that occurred on Tuesday, the response from the city, and the upcoming actions.

John Roberts, CEO of Ingram Barge Co, talked about the barges still remaining against the lower McAlpine Dam Wednesday afternoon. March 29, 2023

No chemical indicators were found in the additional samples taken by the environmental consulting firm CTEH. The Kentucky Cabinet for Environment and Energy stated that no water samples had been taken by the city in the aftermath of the incident, which showed signs of methanol. This information was provided in an afternoon update on Thursday.

The reopening of travel along the river occurred around 7:30 p.M. On Tuesday. As of 11 a.M. On Thursday, two barges were still positioned against the dam, according to a statement from the city. It is anticipated that crews will continue to stay at the location.

Once again, Thursday has verified that there have been no spills in the city. Between 6 am on Thursday and 6 am on Wednesday, more than 141 air quality samples have been collected, and none of them have shown any detection of methanol. The Cabinet for Environment and Energy in Kentucky is currently conducting ongoing water sampling in the river, and the results will be made public.

Additionally present were representatives from Ingram Barge Co. Various other organizations and the city and state Emergency Management departments, in addition to officials from that organization, were present at the location on Wednesday. The occurrence is currently under investigation by the U.S. Coast Guard.

“Being in charge of ensuring the safe removal of (the barges),” stated John Roberts, the CEO of Ingram, although his company was “not responsible for the operation” during the occurrence.

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What happened Tuesday?

Barges against the dam just south of downtown Louisville on Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Jessica Wethington, representative for Louisville Metro Emergency Services, stated that at approximately 2 a.M. On Tuesday, ten out of eleven barges became detached from a tug, which is a vessel that aids other ships in navigating in and out of the harbor. These barges then collided with an immobile structure located at the entrance of the Portland Canal near the McAlpine Lock and Dam.

Authorities stated that the vessels were transporting soybeans and maize, along with methanol. While all the barges have been located, two barges were still stuck against the dam on Wednesday afternoon. However, by 1 p.M., One of the barges that had previously been wedged against the dam had been successfully taken away.

Capt. Heather Mattern of the U.S. Coast Guard did not provide any additional details about how the barges had gotten loose, saying that an ongoing investigation is still taking place.

What is methanol?

Capt. Heather Mattern, U.S. Coast Guard, talked about the barges still remaining against the lower McAlpine Dam Wednesday afternoon. March 29, 2023

“Timber alcohol,” alternatively referred to as methanol, is as per the U.S. Department of Energy. It is a multifaceted substance utilized in numerous commodities, encompassing automotive fuel, artificial materials, and coatings, and is additionally employed in the production of various chemicals.”

Symptoms of methanol poisoning can include comas and seizures, abdominal pain, complete or blurred loss of vision, vomiting, and nausea. Although methanol poisoning is generally treatable at a hospital if diagnosed between 10-30 hours after ingestion, even small amounts of the chemical can be fatal, according to the Methanol Institute, an industry trade association. Methanol is dangerous if consumed.

CTEH, as stated by an environmental consulting company, is easily breakable down by natural processes, and dissolves rapidly in water, volatilizes upon exposure to air, as stated by Louisville Water Co., And the drinking water in the area is deemed to be safe. Nevertheless, local authorities have affirmed that there is no proof that the substance has leaked into the Ohio River.

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What happens next?

Barges against the dam just south of downtown Louisville on Tuesday, March 28, 2023

As per a statement from the municipality, the maintenance teams were scheduled to stay at the McAlpine Dam until late Wednesday evening or early Thursday in order to evaluate the extent of the harm and establish future operational goals. The municipal statement stated that the surveillance of air quality will persist “until the issue is completely resolved,” and the collection of water samples will also persist.

The top priority of the emergency metro Louisville statement is the safety of the first responder personnel and the public – ensuring the safety of the operation.

A further report from the urban area shortly before midday on Thursday indicated that teams will remain at the site until Friday to ascertain the subsequent steps.

Mattern stated that the cleanup process will require a significant amount of time, as safety is the main concern for officials.

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During that period, authorities in that particular municipality are observing the state of affairs, as mentioned by Josh Thompson, the superintendent of Henderson Water Utility treatment, on Tuesday. However, they did not express any apprehension regarding the water quality within the city. The closest point for collecting water from the Ohio River in Kentucky is located in Henderson, approximately 200 miles to the west of Louisville.

Thompson stated that the Ohio River, being a vast watercourse, would probably rapidly disperse significant amounts of large substances. He mentioned that the chemical methanol is quite unstable. Interestingly, there is actually some positive news, as it is currently believed that there has been no spillage of methanol.

The surrounding region of Henderson would be safe, but the local aquatic life would be affected, said Blair Rob, a representative from the Kentucky Cabinet of Environment and Energy, who spoke at a press conference in Louisville on Wednesday. If all the methanol were released into the water, it would likely dissipate after traveling about 15 miles downstream.

The grand sum amounts to 1,400 tons. This narrative was revised to indicate that initially Louisville Metro Emergency Services conveyed 1,400 metric tons of methanol were present on a barge.

Journalist and editor Lucas Aulbach made a contribution. Contact The Courier Journal’s team covering breaking news at lounews@courier-journal.Com.