Coast Guard Responds to Duke Energy Ohio River Spill

The U.S. Coast Guard is working to control a spill of diesel fuel in the Ohio River from Duke Energy Corp.’s Beckjord power plant about 20 miles (32 kilometers) east of Cincinnati.

Downstream drinking water intakes in Cincinnati and northern Kentucky were closed and there’s no risk to the public, operators said. Estimates of the size of the spill differed, with the Coast Guard saying it involved about 8,000 gallons (30,300 liters), while Duke said it was closer to 5,000 gallons. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said about 3,500 gallons were released into the river.

Three vessels were deploying containment booms to capture fuel from the spill, the Coast Guard said in an e-mailed statement. The incident, which lasted about 15 minutes, occurred around 11:15 p.m. New York time yesterday, Charlotte, North Carolina-based Duke said in a statement.

“We’re working around the clock to rapidly and fully restore the affected section of the Ohio River and coordinating closely with local officials to make sure that drinking water continues to remain safe,” Duke Chief Executive Officer Lynn Good said in a separate statement. “We take responsibility for the cleanup and the well being of the communities we serve.”

Greater Cincinnati Water Works closed its Ohio River intake at about 12:50 a.m. before the oil arrived and began water sampling after it was notified by Duke, Assistant Superintendent Jeff Swertfeger said today in a telephone interview. The city has several days’ supply in storage. The intake remains closed as a precaution although the spill is now downstream, Swertfeger said.

Activated Carbon

Northern Kentucky Water District also closed its intakes, according to a notice posted on its website. Activated carbon filters will protect its 300,000 customers once the lines reopen, it said.

Duke, the largest U.S. utility owner, has been cleaning up about 39,000 tons of coal ash that spilled into the Dan River from one of its power plants in North Carolina in February after a storm-water pipe broke. The cause of today’s spill is under investigation by state and federal officials, the Coast Guard said.

Four of the plant’s generators, which are deployed during periods of high demand or emergencies, burn No. 2 diesel oil, which is also used in trucks and locomotives.

Beckjord was among 13 plants Duke put up for sale this year to exit the competitive generation market in Ohio. Duke has retired four of the power plant’s coal-burning generators and expects to close all six by Jan. 1, according to today’s statement.

American Electric Power Co. and AES Corp.’s Dayton Power & Light own stakes in one of Beckjord’s coal-fired generators.

Fog on the river was hampering efforts to assess and clean up the spill, Jonathan Roy, a Coast Guard spokesman, said today in a phone interview.