News Feature | April 15, 2014

Oil Disaster Creates Problems For Water Utility

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


An oil spill in Kentucky threatened to contaminate the Ohio River and caused headaches for water officials this month. 

The 3,150-gallon spill into the Big Sandy River, a tributary of the Ohio, forced officials to contemplate an emergency water shutdown, according to the Floyd County Times

The circumstances presented challenges to the local water utility. "For Southern Water and Sewer District, the news only added another headache to an already problematic week," the report said. 

The utility was just catching its breath after finishing repairs to a water line break that left some customers without service, the report said, citing Dean Hall, assistant general manager at Southern.

After the spill, the utility kept its intake closed, raising the prospect for outages in the area, the report said. 

Kinzer Drilling owns the property where the spill occurred. Doug Hyden, a company official, said a landslide led to a rupture of a storage tank. 

Hyden was positive about the prospects for the river. “I know we still have a lot of oil where we’re at, so not a lot of it made it to the river,” Hyden said in the report. 

Still, the surrounding environment may be in danger. "Doug Tackett, with Pike County Emergency Management, said the spill itself should not pose much risk to humans, but it could cause problems for fish and wildlife," the report said. 

Water contamination by oil is a major issue for environmentalists and water utilities alike. In recent weeks, green advocates have homed in on troubles with explosions in oil-carrying vehicles. 

"Explosions of railroad cars carrying crude oil in parts of the U.S. and Canada have drawn significant attention, from politicians and environmental groups, to the questionable safety of those trains," the Daily Freeman reported.  

"Particularly outspoken is U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who has taken to the bully pulpit time and again to demand tougher new federal rules," the report said. 

Oil threatened rivers elsewhere this month, as well. 

In Iowa, the Des Moines Fire Department's hazardous materials crew "responded to an oil spill in the Des Moines River near the Principal Riverwalk in [the city]," the Des Moines Register reported.

Texas officials along Galveston Bay may also be getting used to oils spills threatening their water supply. 

The Associated Press recently reported: "Galveston Bay has averaged 285 spills a year since 1998, according to statistics from the Houston Advanced Research Center. Most of those spills are tiny compared to a March 22 incident that caused as much as 170,000 gallons to spill into the Houston Ship Channel."

Image credit: "Oiled Bird - Black Sea Oil Spill 11/12/07," © 2007 marinephotobank, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

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