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Barge Accident Spills Gas Into Ohio River; Little Impact Seen

February 20, 1989

CINCINNATI (AP) _ An estimated 40,000 gallons of gasoline spilled in an Ohio River barge accident should dilute quickly in the rain-swollen river without tainting water supplies or harming wildlife, officials say.

″No impact has been observed thus far,″ said Rich Carter, assistant chief of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Emergency Response.

Seven barges carrying gasoline from an Ashland Oil Inc. refinery in Ashland, Ky., to a terminal on the Cincinnati waterfront broke free from a tow Sunday morning and struck a railroad bridge piling within view of downtown Cincinnati.

Ashland spokesman Roger Schrum and the Coast Guard said two of the barges leaked gasoline.

The Ohio crested Saturday inches above flood stage and was falling today. Carter said the swift flow prevented any recovery of the gasoline but also should keep the spill from having much impact on water supplies or aquatic life.

The spill occurred downstream from intakes for Cincinnati’s water supply, officials said. Gasoline tends to float on the water’s surface, and authorities said water systems that draw from the river could close their intakes until the spill floats past.

Officials in Louisville, about 100 miles downstream, were notified of the spill. Steve Samuels, production supervisor with the Louisville Water Co., said carbon had been added to water at one plant as a precaution to absorb any gasoline.

Don Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, said the spill should reach the Louisville-New Albany, Ind., area by this evening if it doesn’t evaporate first.

All other downstream communities close to the spill draw their water from wells or underground aquifers, Carter said.

The leaking barges were being drained of their remaining gasoline Sunday night at an Ashland facility in Cincinnati and at a Standard Oil Co. facility in nearby Bromley, Ky., Carter said.

River traffic was flowing normally by afternoon, said Coast Guard Lt. Chuck Polk. Investigators were trying to determine what caused the barges to hit the Norfolk & Southern Railroad bridge, he said.

The bridge was not damaged, said Herb Nugent, terminal trainmaster for Norfolk & Southern.

Sunday’s spill briefly created an overpowering stench of gasoline along the riverfront.

″It was nauseating. It would give you a headache,″ said Marian Johnson of God’s Shelterhouse, a Cincinnati home for the needy near the riverfront.

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