February 15th, 2023
MUB responds to customer concerns related to East Palestine, OH train derailment
In the wake of the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, Morgantown Utility Board assures its customers that the water in our area is safe for all uses. The assurance comes after MUB fielded a number of calls from customers concerned with possible water contamination. The concerns arise from news that chemicals spilled in the incident have found their way to the Ohio River.
According to MUB Director of Communications Chris Dale, the Ohio River is not in MUB’s watershed.
“It’s important to note that the Ohio River is not in our watershed because the Monongahela River flows north toward Pittsburgh,” he said. “Besides that, between our water treatment plant and the Ohio River there are seven locks and dams along the Monongahela River. Although we will certainly monitor the situation, contamination events occurring north of Morgantown pose absolutely no threat to our system.”
Dale adds that what the train derailment does point out is the need for adequate planning and preparation.
“Our water treatment plant staff are continuously monitoring the condition of the river both at the plant and upriver. In fact, just a couple of years ago we launched a pontoon-based river monitoring system a couple of miles south of the and upstream of the plant. We also share information up and down the river with other treatment plants so that we’re well connected and informed,” he said.
In addition to the sophisticated monitoring, MUB also contracted with Downstream Strategies in advanced source water protection planning. An important part of that includes response mechanisms in the event of a water contamination event.
“Trains run the length of the Monongahela River, including directly across from our water treatment plant. In the event of an accident similar to that in East Palestine, we could have to close our river intake with little notice,” Dale said. “So yes, there are threats to our water supply that MUB is prepared to quickly and thoroughly address.”
Currently, if MUB shuts off its water intake, the area would have a maximum three-day supply of water. However, after the newly constructed Flegal Dam and Reservoir goes into service this spring, that will be stretched to a 30-plus day supply.
“If this incident made anything clear it’s the absolute prudence of constructing the Flegal Dam and Reservoir. As Morgantown continues to grow, the importance of the reservoir will become even more obvious,” said Dale. “Of course, such events also make clear the need for a comprehensive crisis response plan, which we partnered with organizations across our community to develop. From communications to active response measures, we’re well prepared to meet our mission of protecting public health.”
MUB’s source water protection program can be found at mub.org/swpp. Information on MUB’s watershed and above ground storage tanks within the watershed can be found at mub.org/ast.