(NaturalNews) The residents of Greater Cincinnati, Ohio, are relying on drinking water reserves after a nearby energy plant spilled 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel into the Ohio River late Monday night on Aug. 18. Although this particular incident was due to "human error," the plant reportedly has a authorization to dump thousands of pounds of oil and grease directly into the river EVERY DAY.
The spill reportedly occurred during a "routine transfer" at Duke Energy's W.C. Beckjord Station in New Richmond, according to a report by WCPO-TV. The leak happened while oil was transferred into a tank, during which an employee left the valve open for at least 15 minutes, allowing the waste to run down a hill into the water, impacting 15 miles of the Ohio River.
The 5,000 gallons entered the river just upstream from a wastewater treatment plant, jeopardizing water resources for most of Hamilton County, parts of Butler and Warren Counties and Boone County in Kentucky. Greater Cincinnati Water Works provides 133 million gallons of water per day through 3,000 miles of water mains, according to their website. The water plant shut their valves after receiving notification of the leak.
Cincinnati Mayor inappropriately jokes about diesel spill
Despite the seriousness of the situation, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley inappropriately joked about the matter in front of reporters during a press conference Tuesday, pretending to choke after taking a big gulp of water and then laughing hysterically. Cranley has been mayor for just eight months.
The mayor admitted that, "out of an abundance of caution," the water treatment plant has decided to keep their valves closed, "as [they] did in January," in order to prevent contamination. The Tri-State area was affected when crude MHCM, a coal-cleaning agent, leaked from a West Virginia chemical plant last winter.
According to Peter Tennant, executive of the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, this type of spill happens every few years. "This one is of major concern because of where it happened. Anytime something happens upstream from a water intake, it is of major concern," Tennant said.
Duke Energy has state permit to dump oil and grease into Ohio River daily
Documents uncovered by WCPO revealed that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had concerns about the plant's condition before the spill. EPA officials worried that other foreign substances had the potential to enter the region's water system. In addition to oil and grease, a state permit has also allowed Duke to dump mercury and arsenic into the river.
"Fly ash, boiler slag and other waste water" has been dumped into coal ash ponds next to the plant since the 1960s, allowing "solids settle to the bottom and oil and grease is skimmed off as the wastewater leaves the ponds," according to state documents.
Ash ponds are built as disposal site for plant byproducts.
In 2010, an EPA assessment described the coal ash ponds as being in "poor" condition, urging the plant to act because "a sudden failure of the structure would result in... disruption of a public water treatment facility, release of health hazardous industrial or commercial waste."
Erosion on the retaining dikes, rodent burrows, sink holes, slides and mature trees were growing in the middle of the waste pond. A leak occurred in 1999 but was only discovered after the plant reported "a significant drop in pond water elevation." Divers identified "holes" in the overflow pipe.
"It does not appear that Duke Energy has adequate inspection practices," wrote inspection engineers in their assessment. "Currently, observations by plant personnel consist of 'drive-by inspections.'"
Unsurprisingly, Duke is closing its doors in January, because it pollutes too much. The coal ash ponds are expected to close, which may include the horrific, but common, practice of "capping" or covering up the waste and leaving it behind.