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Water Crisis Eases in Fuel Spill

April 4, 1990

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Threats to water supplies created by a fuel spill in the Allegheny River waned as the slick snaked along the Ohio River toward Ohio and West Virginia.

″In our tests we’re seeing a marked dissipation in the amounts of fuel throughout the rivers,″ said Betsy Mallison, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources.

The concentration of petroleum 5 feet deep in the Ohio River at West View dropped from 75 parts per billion at 1 p.m. to 25 parts per billion six hours later, Ms. Mallison said.

The spill, which stretched 14 miles through the river in industrial Beaver County early today, came from at least 75,000 gallons of diesel, gasoline and kerosene seeped from a severed interstate pipeline into an Allegheny River tributary Friday after a mudslide near Freeport in rural Armstrong County. The Allegheny flows into the Ohio River at Pittsburgh.

The spill at one time had threatened the water supplies of up to 1 million people along the Allegheny and Ohio rivers.

The Midland Water Authority, about five miles east of the Ohio and West Virginia state lines, closed its intakes at 11 p.m. Tuesday, and the spill’s leading edge passed about 2 1/2 hours later, plant manager John Uccellini said. The authority serves 11,700 Beaver County residents in Midland, Ohioville and Industry.

Uccellini said state environmental officials would test the water for oil concentrations, and the intakes likely would be reopened later today.

Across the Ohio border, officials in East Liverpool were testing the water but had detected no trace of oil as of 8:45 a.m., said Joe Miller, chief of the East Liverpool filtration plant.

The water authority in East Liverpool, which serves about 7,000 customers, closed two intakes near the surface of the water but hoped to continue drawing water from an intake at the bottom of the river, Miller said.

The state National Guard offered 100 water tankers to Midland area residents, said Russell Chiodo, director of the Beaver County Emergency Management Agency.

″I pray that we don’t need them,″ he said.

The spill was no threat to other water systems serving Beaver County because those systems draw well water, Chiodo added.

Freeport, the first city to stop drawing water over the weekend, reopened intakes that were closed for 3 1/2 days. Ten water plants along the Allegheny had resumed use of river water Tuesday night, Ms. Mallison said.

About 20,000 residents of Harrison Township were asked to boil water to kill bacteria that might have grown in the system when it was empty, she said.

Nine oil-collecting booms on the Allegheny were removed because they weren’t necessary, said federal Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman Carrie Deitzel. Sixteen other booms remained in the river.

The state is calculating environmental and lost-water costs to be charged to the owner of the severed petroleum line, Allentown-based Buckeye Pipeline Co., said Mark McClellan, the Department of Environmental Resources deputy secretary.

The company also could face fines for delaying notification of the spill to the state, he said.

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