Diesel Fuel Spoils City Water Supply

Whitesburg residents should avoid using city water for anything other than flushing toilets until tests show that diesel fuel has been purged from the water system.

Diesel can cause eye and skin irritation, and if the fuel is aspirated (breathed into the lungs), it can cause swelling known as pulmonary edema, nervous system depression or excitement. Drinking the contaminated water could cause abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

The contamination was discovered Saturday, Nov. 1, in the North Fork of the Kentucky River, a little more than a mile upstream of the city water intake. Officials are not yet releasing the name of the person or persons responsible, but preliminary tests showed the petroleum came from contaminated dirt dumped near the riverbank, Letcher County Emergency Management Director Paul Miles said.

At least some restaurants had not been notified late Saturday night and were still serving food. Schools were open on Monday, but some students reported meager lunches because there was no water to cook with. Schools were closed today (Nov. 4) because of election day, and officials have announced they will be closed again tomorrow because of the water situation.
Health officials on Monday ordered restaurants not to serve eat-in meals because customers could not wash their hands in the restrooms. Most eateries were still serving take-out meals today.
The City of Whitesburg is distributing free bottled water to residents from the city fire department on East Main Street. The Lexington Herald-Leader is reporting that the water was provided by Childers Oil, the main distributor of petroleum products in Letcher County and a major owner of gas stations across the region.
A strong odor of diesel or kerosene lingers around the North Fork of the Kentucky River at Ermine, near the site of the contamination.

The contamination is the second spill of diesel fuel in the county in the past few months. Earlier this year, a tanker truck belonging to J. Follace Oil Company and carrying more than 7,000 gallons of fuel crashed on Kentucky Highway 15 at Van. The impact of the wreck cracked open the tanker and spilled its contents onto the highway. A heavy rain shortly after the accident washed much of that fuel into Smoot Creek, were county Emergency Management workers constructed an underflow dam to contain the spill. The resulting oil slick was thought to have been stopped before it reached the North Fork of the Kentucky. Smoot Creek’s confluence with the North Fork is far downstream from the Whitesburg water intake, but upstream of the Blackey Water Treatment Plant.

In that case, the road was closed for about nine hours, and the highway had to be resurfaced weeks later because fuel was still seeping out of the asphalt. Roadside dirt contaminated by that spill was dug up and disposed of in a licensed landfill at Ivel, EMS Director Miles said.

Posted by Sam

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *