Questions related to West Virginia Chemical Spill and its effect in Kentucky

The Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection in cooperation with the Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commission is monitoring the movement of the chemical spill that occurred in West Virginia, as it flows along the Ohio River. All public water supply systems in the path of the plume, are responding appropriately to ensure the quality of the public drinking water. There is no indication of any concerns with the safety or quality of the drinking water at any of these systems.

  • Is the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection (KYDEP) monitoring water issues for drinking water intakes?
    • The Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection, Environmental Response Team is assisting the Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) with collecting samples for testing by ORSANCO’s Organic Detection System (ODS).
    • ORSANCO Press Releases

  • Is KYDEP working with the public water supply systems (PWSs) in the chemicals path?
    • The DOW is working with the three (3) PWSs using surface water in this area: Ashland, Russell and Maysville and will be in contact with downstream systems as necessary. No issues are expected in either Northern Kentucky or Louisville, the subsequent two downstream KY public water supply intakes on the Ohio River.
    • The Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection has no indication of any concerns with the quality of the public drinking water at any of these systems in Kentucky.
  • Where is the MCHM plume?
    • The MCHM plume has been detected in the Ohio River. It was first detected in the Ohio River on Sunday, January 12 at noon. The plume reached Ashland at 5:30 a.m., Monday, January 13 with minimal detection of 0.023 ppm. That is well below the level of 1 ppm that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reportedly told West Virginia officials would be an acceptable level in drinking water. Ashland and Russell took the appropriate precautions and temporarily shutdown their water intakes on the morning of January 13, 2014 while assessing ORSANCO data; both plants are now adding carbon and treating water.
    • ORSANCO, working with the Coast Guard, Kentucky Dept of Fish and Wildlife Resources and the Environmental Response Team are sampling the Ohio River to track the plume.
    • According to ORSANCO, as of noon, January 13, 2014, the chemical’s odor was detected at Greenup Locks and Dam, which is at Ohio River Mile 341.0.
    • The plume (what residual levels may remain in the plume) is projected to reach Northern Kentucky, Tuesday evening, January 14. No issues are expected to occur in Northern Kentucky. Residual levels of MCHM may reach Louisville later this week where no concerns are expected.
  • What programs are in place in Kentucky to protect PWSs from spills of this or other chemicals?
    • Public drinking water facilities in Kentucky using surface water are required by 401 KAR 8:100 to have carbon treatment available in the event of a contaminant like 4-methycyclohexane methanol (MCHM) is detected.
    • If the material is stored at a facility in Kentucky, they are required to have a Groundwater Protection Plan (GPP) as required by 401 KAR 5:037. In addition, the facility would be required to have secondary containment consistent with their best management plans (BMP) required under the KPDES program.
    • The State Fire Marshal’s Office reviews plans, grants permits for installation of above ground storage tanks – primarily flammables and combustibles – and inspects the installation once completed. The State Fire Marshal’s Office also conducts periodic inspections of the tanks, depending upon the types of material stored.
    • The federal SPCC rule provides requirements for oil spill prevention, preparedness, and response to prevent oil discharges to navigable waters and adjoining shorelines. The rule requires specific facilities to prepare, amend, and implement SPCC Plans. The SPCC rule is part of the Oil Pollution Prevention regulation, which also includes the Facility Response Plan (FRP) rule.
    • The 1995 Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act required states to develop Source Water Assessment and Protection programs.
      • Kentucky’s Source Water Protection Program was developed as part of County Water Supply Plans (1999) and was updated in 2002-2003.
        • Area Development Districts (ADDs) developed/updated almost all plans. Copies should be at the ADDs as a part of the Water Supply Plans
        • DOW does not have physical copies of plans.
  • The delineation zones for the Source Water Assessment and Protection program include the “Critical Zone,” which extends 5 miles upstream of the intake, the “Zone of Responsibility,” which extends the protection area to 10 miles above the intake, along the source stream and any tributaries that are 3rd order or above, and the “Zone of Potential Impact” which extends to 25 miles above the intake, along the source stream and any tributaries that are 3rd order or above.
  • Ohio River Source Water Protection Program
  • In addition, if a facility stores chemicals on site, they are required to report this under SARA Title III Sections 312 (Tier 2) in order to develop an emergency management plan that is submitted and approved by the local authorities and the Kentucky Emergency Management in accordance with the SARA 313 process. Facilities also are required to report releases, disposal and recycling of chemicals annually under SARA Title III Section 313 (Toxic Release Inventory or TRI). These requirements were passed by the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act in 1986. Facilities are not required to submit a TRI or Tier II report on chemical usage under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act if they do not meet the requirements for quantity used or stored.
  • The Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection has requirements for reporting spills that would result in or contribute to the pollution of the waters of the Commonwealth as required by and KRS 224.1-400 and KRS 224.1-405, as well as 401 KAR 5:015 for facilities with NPDES permits.
  • What do we know about 4-methycyclohexane methanol use in Kentucky?
    • One of the uses of the chemical MCHM is used in some Kentucky Coal Prep Plants as part of the cleaning process and recovery of coal fines. The chemical is stored in small quantities at some Prep Plant and is required to have secondary containment consistent with BMP and GPP requirements.
  • Known Health Effects of MCHM
    • In evaluating the information on 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM) from the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) it is apparent that very little information on the potential toxic effects of either the parent compound, methylcyclohexane, nor of MCHM is available. Methylcyclohexane has a low specific gravity (floats on water) and a low solubility in water and is mixed with methanol to increase its solubility in water.
    • The MCHM MSDS sheets from TCI America and Eastman indicate that it is harmful if swallowed, will cause skin irritation, and cause serious eye irritation based on exposure of rabbits and guinea pigs to the pure product. Eastman indicates an acute oral LC50 of 825 mg/Kg (parts per million) and a dermal LD50 of >2000 mg/Kg for rats (the length of exposure was not given; generally such studies are 24-48 hours). No data is available on mutagenicity, carcinogenicity, reproductive toxicity, repeated exposures, persistence in the environment and degradability in the environment.
    • MCHM is classified as an irritant. Some studies have shown that chronic exposure to the chemical can cause serious health problems, but it is not expected to remain in the water long enough for that to be a concern.
    • EPA limits the concentration of all foaming agency to 0.5 milligrams per liter. Foaming agents fall in the secondary drinking water standards. Secondary standards are intended to regulate aesthetic issues such as color, taste, and texture.
    • There is limited information about the chemical. Precautions are advisable to limit exposure and use alternate water sources. It does not appear to be highly toxic and is not specifically listed as being regulated under the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) or EPCRA Tier 2 reporting. May cause skin or eye irritation and harmful if ingested. Lighter than water and a molecular weight of 128.21 (TCI America MSDS). Relatively soluble in water (Eastman MSDS) and volatility is relatively high given its chemical structure.
    • The chemical is anticipated to biodegrade over time given: the right bacteria, the right nutrients, and the right temperature (cold decreases bacterial growth and degradation).
    • Higher concentrations could cause harm to aquatic and terrestrial animals, but once diluted, bacteria would be able to break it down.

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