Millions of Gallons of Raw Sewage Flowing into Ohio River at Huntington, WV

by Tony Rutherford HuntingtonNews.Net Reporter
Millions of Gallons of Raw Sewage Flowing into Ohio River at Huntington, WV

HUNTINGTON, WV (HNN) – A broken pump station at 13th Street West in the city has an estimated “millions of gallons” of raw sewage discharging into the Ohio River, according to Loretta Covington, executive director of the Huntington Sanitary Board.

“When [our employee] arrived on the scene, water was coming out of the station,” Covington said in a statement during the Thursday work session of Huntington City Council.

“It’s the major trunk line to the plant,” she told council. “Crews will be working all night.”

Instead of the damaged W. 13th Street pump station sending on untreated sewage from four other stations to the Waste Treatment Plant, the sewage is going into the Ohio River.

At the meeting, Ms. Covington provided both a ‘best case’ and ‘worst case’ scenario. Repair estimates range from $50,000 to $500,000. This would be paid by the Sanitary Board, Covington told council.

She described the worst case as a “broken line” at the station that has “no isolation valve. We cannot control the flow.”

Or, it could be a broken discharge pipe. The motor could be sent to dry out and put on line at the 13th Street West station in 24-48 hours, Covington said.

The time frame for stopping the flow depends on pumping out the water and then drying the pump and fixing the problem. The raw sewage will continue to go into the Ohio for at least four to 24 hours and , under a worst case circumstance, up to a week.

Council member Rebecca Thacker asked about the safety of drinking water.

Covington said that with the Ohio River so high the millions of gallons of sewage will “swiftly flow down the Ohio River.”

HNN contacted Laura Jordan, external affairs manager of WV American Water, who agreed. “This will have absolutely no effect on water quality for Huntington customers, as our plant intake is located upstream at 24th Street.” Ms. Jordan indicated that the raw sewage would dilute in the river and anticipated no drinking water problems for other cities, such as Ashland, Ky., Ironton, Ohio, or Portsmouth, Ohio.

Actually, the infrastructure issues are beyond the 13th St. West station and four others off-line. Aging infrastructure is all over the state. Clean water regulations have been issued by EPA, but council and others have described it as an unfunded federal mandate.

Both the West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection and the U.S. EPA Region III have been notified of the spill.

Mark Bates, chairman of Huntington City Council , speculated that some of the funds saved by the Hal Greer Blvd. under-bid might be used for the repair of this station. Although the state has approved additional items, the Sanitary Board has purchased only several new trucks to replace dangerously aging ones.

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