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Louisville Water Conducts Tests After Ohio River Chemical Spill Near Cincinnati

Scientist Mark Campbell analyzing spill samples
Courtesy Louisville Water
Scientist Mark Campbell analyzing spill samples

Louisville Water Company officials say they’re monitoring and conducting tests from a spill of liquid fertilizer on the Ohio River near Cincinnati.

The spill of urea ammonium nitrate came from a ruptured barge. Officials aren’t sure how much of the material was released but it’s believed the barge was holding more than 300,000 gallons.

Louisville Water spokeswoman Kelley Dearing-Smith said based on the current river flow, most of the spill would not reach the company’s intake pipes until the middle of next week.

“We feel pretty good about our treatment strategy, so we don’t have a lot of concerns about water quality right now," she said. "But we’re being extremely cautious at Louisville Water Company and this is a situation that’s going to evolve over the next couple of days.”

Dearing-Smith said scientists should have a better picture of what they’re dealing with by Thursday after samples are analyzed.

“Louisville’s drinking water is safe, it’s the high quality that we’re always used to," she said.  "We are being overly cautious about this spill.  We feel pretty good about our treatment strategy, but until we have further analysis and a better grasp as to what’s going on, we can’t say we’re totally confident, but we’re feeling pretty good.”

The liquid fertilizer is a raw material used in the manufacturing of certain chemicals. The spill occurred downriver from Cincinnati’s intake valves.

Rick Howlett was midday host and the host of LPM's weekly talk show, "In Conversation." He was with LPM from 2001-2023 and held many different titles, including Morning Edition host, Assignment Editor and Interim News Director. He died in August 2023. Read a remembrance of Rick here.