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Plan in place for spill containment

Only the City of Ironton on this side of the Ohio River should be affected by the chemical spill that contaminated the Elk River on Thursday and shut down much of Central West Virginia.

“Most of the other water systems in the county are wells drawing water from aquifers that are close to the (Ohio) River,” Mike Boster, EMA director said. “They shouldn’t be affected.”

On Thursday night a foaming agent used in coal preparation leaked from a tank at Freedom Industries into the Elk. Early Friday the West

Virginia and federal governments declared a state of emergency.

The spill is expected to hit the Ironton area Sunday evening as it flows downriver from the Elk to the Kanawha into the Ohio River.

“Right now our plan is when it gets here around Sunday evening we will shut off operation at the water plant, not pump, filter and transfer to the tank, and allow that to pass,” Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship said. “During that time we will have water in the tank.”

However, with the water breaks caused by frigid temperatures on Tuesday, the capacity of the tank on Nixon Hill is strained.

“The thing that concerns us is the water breaks and the amount of water we are pumping. We are pumping above average water due to the cold,” Blankenship said. “We are pumping as much as we can to keep the tank as full as we can.”

On Thursday the city pumped 1.2 million gallons from a 2-million tank.

City crews were busy repairing those leaks the past few days.

“We are keeping an eye on the spill,” Blankenship said. “We don’t expect it to affect us like, unfortunately, those folks up the river.”