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Ohio River Fertilizer Spill Moves Through Louisville; No Drinking Water Concerns

The Louisville Water Company says a large liquid fertilizer spill that occurred on the Ohio River near Cincinnati has been moving through the Louisville area with no water quality problems.

Thousands of gallons of urea ammonium nitrate spilled into the river from a ruptured barge early last week.

Louisville Water spokeswoman Kelley Dearing Smith said the spill began passing through Louisville on Christmas afternoon. She said scientists have been constantly monitoring the water and began conducting hourly tests Friday.

“They just wanted to make sure that we didn’t need to take any treatment precautions. So they really did a great job," she said. "We were able to get through the spill with no water quality concerns. So, there’s no concerns with Louisville’s drinking water."

The spill happened downriver from Cincinnati’s intake valves. Dearing Smith said the flow of the river and rainfall helped dilute the spill before it reached Louisville.

“This spill was unique because it wasn’t like an oil spill where you could see it on the river," she said. "The chemical was soluble, so our scientists really had to track the spill not only in its location but it had to do the hourly monitoring in order to understand how this plume was moving."

The barge was holding more than 300,000 gallons of the liquid fertilizer when the break occurred.


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.

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