Chemical Plume Reaches Louisville; Water Co. Says Treatment Plants Removing Chemical as Expected

A chemical plume traveling down the Ohio River reached Louisville early this morning, and a water company spokeswoman says the treatment plants are handling the chemical as expected and there’s no danger to the public.

The plume contains methylcyclohexane methanol, or MCHM, which spilled into the Elk River near Charleston, West Virginia a week ago. A nine county area there was without drinking water for days, and some areas are just now getting water back.

Louisville Water Company spokeswoman Kelley Dearing Smith says the plume of MCHM in the Ohio River entered Louisville’s water system early this morning, and will likely be in the area until sometime tomorrow. She says the company’s treatment plants are removing the chemical, and so far, the water coming out of treatment plants shows no detectable amount of MCHM.

The actual concentration of MCHM in the river won’t be known until later today, but Dearing Smith says it’s expected to be below 15 parts per billion. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising that it’s safe to drink the water as long as concentrations are below 1 part per million–which it is now, mainly thanks to dilution. The CDC also suggested pregnant women not drink the water if there’s any detectable amount of MCHM, and Dearing Smith says the finished tap water should comply with that standard.

Erica Peterson

Erica Peterson reports on energy and the environment for WFPL.

@ericampeterson

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