Cincinnati — An estimated 5,000 to 8,000 gallons of fuel oil spilled into the Ohio River, closing about a 15-mile section of the waterway southeast of Cincinnati.
River traffic has been advised that the section of river has been closed to enable response and cleanup to the Duke Energy spill. It was not immediately known when the section would reopen, Coast Guard Lt. Katherine Cameron said.
The spill from a Duke substation in New Richmond, about 20 miles southeast of Cincinnati, happened around 11:15 p.m. Monday, said Duke spokeswoman Sally Thelen. She said the spill occurred during a routine transfer of fuel oil from a larger tank to smaller ones and was stopped within about 15 minutes.
Cameron says the spill is considered medium-sized on a scale that ranges from minor to major. The medium-sized designation applies to inland leaks between 1,000 and 10,000 gallons of oil, Cameron said.
Officials had no more immediate description of the spill or its size.
“We are working with officials from Duke Energy to determine the extent,” Cameron said.
Local, state and environmental agencies also were at the scene Tuesday, and the Coast Guard said Duke has assumed responsibility for spill cleanup.
Ohio EPA spokeswoman Heidi Griesmer said the water quality alert system for the Ohio River was activated and all river drinking water intakes in Ohio were sealed off. The Greater Cincinnati Water Works shut down its water intakes around 12:50 a.m. and monitoring of the water entering the system prior to shut-down showed no contamination, Griesmer said.
The Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection had a representative at the site, but no additional information was immediately available, said department spokeswoman Ricki Gardenhire.
Peter Tennant, executive director of the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, says water intake valves were closed for both Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati and probably would remain closed until it is deemed safe to open them. He said the commission has been told that oil can be smelled on both sides of the river.
Water quality scientists from the Greater Cincinnati Water Works are monitoring the river in conjunction with the Northern Kentucky Water District. Samples will be taken along the river while the intakes are closed to ensure there are no threats to the water supply, the Greater Cincinnati Water Works said in a statement on its website. The agency said it has adequate capacity to continue operating while the intakes are down, and the water will receive additional treatment once the intakes are reopened.
A statement on the Northern Kentucky Water District’s website says that when the water intakes from the river are reopened, treatment processes will be done to ensure that no material gets into the water supply.
Messages left for both water districts were not immediately returned Tuesday.