For over 30 years, ORSANCO has worked to assure that water utilities are sufficiently warned about upstream spills. The goal of the Spill Notification and Tracking Program is to protect Ohio River public water supply intakes from the impacts of spills, notifying appropriate federal, state, and local agencies, providing information on river conditions, and coordinating on-river monitoring.
Because the Ohio River is a boundary between states for 941 of its 981 mile length, any spill represents a potential interstate impact. State and federal agencies with primary emergency response authorities routinely report all such spills to ORSANCO, who in turn relays the information to the states whose waters may be impacted. The vast majority of spills are small and have only local impacts; once the initial and follow-up reports have been disseminated, such incidents can be considered closed.
A major spill requires continued involvement by ORSANCO and the diversion of staff from other programs. Staff activities can include:
- Participation in Regional Response Team activation, either on scene or via teleconference;
- Frequent information updates to state agencies and water supply utilities via telephone, fax, and the Electronic Bulletin Board;
- Activation of the Organics Detection System for intensive monitoring at affected sites;
- Arranging for samples of contaminated water to be sent to downstream water utilities for treatability studies;
- On-river monitoring.
Typically, one or more of these activities are required for one or two incidents each year. An extremely large spill can require prolonged diversion of significant staff resources requiring curtailment of other activities.
Spills are received by ORSANCO staff on a 24 hour basis. Spills are posted on an electronic bulletin board to facilitate communication to water utilities. Additionally, spill reports are compiled in an in-house database for periodic evaluation of spill occurrence.