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First City Shuts Down Ohio River Intakes After Chemical Disaster, Left with Water Reserves Only

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Cincinnati has moved to shut down water intake from the Ohio River due to reports of contamination, making it the first city to do so.

Earlier this month, a Norfolk Southern Railway train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, and left behind burning toxins.

While no one was injured in the wreck, there have been multiple reports of sick and dying animals, including pets and local wildlife.

Videos posted on social media, including by Ohio Republican Sen. J.D. Vance, show a rainbow-colored slick in the water of the Ohio River and small connecting creeks.

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Both the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and Greater Cincinnati Water Works have tested the Ohio River water and have not reported any toxins or chemicals that were spilled in East Palestine, according to WCPO-TV.

However, “out of an abundance of caution,” GCWW announced in a Friday update that they would be closing off Cincinnati’s water intake from the Ohio River.

Cincinnati draws most of its water from the Ohio River and the Great Miami Aquifer.

While the water in Cincinnati may not be toxic at the moment, GCWW expects the contamination to reach Cincinnati by Sunday, WCPO-TV reported.

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Jeff Swertfeger, the superintendent of water quality treatment at GCWW, said Friday that once the city closes the intakes, they can rely on reserve water for at least several days without issue. This water was collected before the chemical spill in East Palestine and is safe to drink, GCWW said.

Cincinnati officials will continue to test the water and will keep the intakes closed until the chemical contamination has passed, according to WCPO-TV.

Is the Ohio River becoming contaminated by the East Palestine spill?

“We want to make absolutely sure the chemical is not there, that we’re not bringing in any of it,” Swertfeger said, adding his reassurance that “there’s absolutely no danger to the drinking water.”

City Manager Sheryl Long also expressed her confidence in the safety of the water and the decision to shut down the Ohio River water intake.

“There’s zero risk that our water reserves contain contaminants from the train derailment site, and tapping these reserves will give us all peace of mind,” Long said, according to WCPO-TV. “I want to thank GCWW, who are truly the best of the best, and state that I have full faith in their decision-making and their ability to keep us safe.”

When the water intakes are eventually reopened, GCWW plans to use “additional optimized treatment,” even if no contamination is detected.

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