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.
A Coast Guard spokeswoman says that the section of river was closed to river traffic Tuesday to enable cleanup and response. A Duke Energy spokeswoman says the spill from a Duke power plant in New Richmond, about 20 miles southeast of Cincinnati, happened late Monday night.
Duke Energy spokeswoman Sally Thelen says the spill occurred during a fuel transfer and lasted 10 to 15 minutes before it was stopped.
Coast Guard spokeswoman Lt. Katherine Cameron says the spill is considered medium-sized. That designation applies to inland leaks between 1,000 and 10,000 gallons of oil. Officials are working to determine the exact extent of the spill.
“We are working with officials from Duke Energy to determine the extent,” Cameron said.
The section was closed to all river traffic, including barges carrying commercial goods, when the spill was reported. Tim Smith, chief of investigations for the Coast Guard’s Ohio Valley sector, said his agency hoped to reopen the section as soon as possible.
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 spill comes just weeks after about 400,000 people in Toledo were left without clean tap water when toxins produced by Lake Erie algae got into the city’s water supply
Water quality scientists from the Greater Cincinnati Water Works continued monitoring the river in conjunction with the Northern Kentucky Water District. Rocky Merz, a spokesman for the city of Cincinnati, said no threats to drinking water have been found.
Merz said a strong odor of oil reported along the river early Tuesday morning seemed to dissipate as the day progressed.