Coast Guard responds as thousands of gallons of diesel spill into Ohio River from Duke Energy plant

CINCINNATI - Thousands of gallons of diesel fuel spilled out onto the Ohio River after an incident at a power plant early Tuesday.

The Coast Guard said it estimated about 8,000 gallons of fuel spilled out from Duke Energy’s W.C. Beckjord power station outside of Cincinnati.

The spill was first reported at about 12:20 a.m. Tuesday. The plant is about 20 miles southeast but upstream of Cincinnati.

Duke Energy later released a statement saying the spill happened at about 11:15 p.m. Monday.

The company said the spill happened during a routine transfer of fuel oil. Duke estimated about 5,000 gallons was discharged into the river. Crews were able to stop the release by 11:30 p.m.

Duke said it notified local, state and environmental agencies were notified promptly to take action.

“We notified state and local authorities of the incident and have been working with them throughout the overnight hours,” Chuck Whitlock, Duke Energy president of Midwest Commercial Generation and vice president of gas operations, said in a release. “We have cleanup crews on site that are identifying the appropriate actions that will be needed to remediate.”

The Coast Guard said it established a safety zone on the river to assess the spill and launch cleanup operations. A portion of the river near the spill was closed to vessel traffic.

Duke Energy assumed responsibility for the cleanup and Coast Guard officials said a spill response organization has been contacted to begin operations.

The Coast Guard said three vessels have already been deployed to the spill to begin cleanup work. An official said about 2,000 feet of oil containment equipment was deployed.

Several agencies have been dispatched to the scene to investigate the spill.

Officials said Duke Energy has contacted Cincinnati Waterworks and Northern Kentucky Waterworks to address issues with municipal water intakes.

A coal barge rests on the Ohio River near the site of a fuel spill.

Tony Parrott, head of Greater Cincinnati Water Works, said the department was notified of the spill just after midnight.

Parrott said crews shut down the Ohio River intakes so none of the spill was taken in. He said they expected the spill would arrive at the waterworks at about 7 a.m.

Parrott said the department’s reserves were near capacity and they will be able to operate with the intakes closed for some time.

The department is expect to keep the intakes closed for as long as it takes for the spill to completely pass.

Parrott said the agency does have the capacity to feed active carbon into the water supply to handle the emergency if they are forced to open the intakes.

The Beckjord station has the capacity to put out 1,124 megawatts but Duke Energy said is a “nominal 862-megawatt” facility with six coal/steam units. It is located in New Richmond.

The station was first commercially operation in June 1952.

According to Duke Energy’s website, the plant is expected to be retired on Jan. 1, 2015. The company said EPA regulations would require cost-prohibitive upgrades and retrofits to the plant to continue operation.

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