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Update on Louisville Water Treatment Strategy for the Elk River Spill

Friday January 17, 2014

The plume of the chemical MCHM began moving through the Ohio River in Louisville early this morning and poses no health concern for Louisville Water customers.

Louisville Water scientists are analyzing Ohio River samples and have adjusted the treatment process at the Crescent Hill Filtration Plant.  Drinking water that leaves the plant will contain non-detectable levels of MCHM.  The plume of this compound is not visible in the Ohio River – it is at levels of lower than 20 parts per billion – and will pass quickly through the area by midday tomorrow.  Again, drinking water that leaves the treatment plant will not contain detectable amounts of MCHM.

Louisville Water is well-equipped to handle this type of incident through two treatment processes:
  • First, using groundwater as a source with the Riverbank Filtration project at the B.E. Payne Plant.  This one-of-a-kind project in the world uses a tunnel and well system as a natural filter.  This treatment system is a “green approach” and naturally filters water moving into the ground.
  • Second, at the Crescent Hill Filtration Plant, Louisville Water will use carbon to remove the contaminant.  This type of treatment can be routinely used to handle taste and odor issues. We expect to use carbon throughout the weekend as part of the treatment strategy.

Louisville Water customers will not see any changes in the quality of their drinking water nor should they notice any changes in the taste of their drinking water.  The treatment strategy in this instance is similar to how Louisville Water deals with other taste and odor issues.

Additional Information 
  • Where the Kanawha River joins the Ohio River – some 600 river miles upstream - the levels of MCHM were 345 parts per billion.  The levels continued to drop as the water moves down the Ohio River to 30 parts per billion upriver from Cincinnati to levels below 20 parts per billion near Louisville.
  • The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) on Thursday confirmed that levels of MCHM below 50 parts per billion are not considered a public health risk.
  • Since the spill occurred, Louisville Water has worked closely with the Ohio River Valley Water and Sanitation Commission and other water utilities to analyze samples and develop treatment strategies.
  • While this incident has certainly heightened the awareness of water treatment, Louisville Water successfully manages treatment strategies on a daily basis, providing drinking water that exceeds the nation’s strict drinking water standards.