Ohio--Tiffin Prepares to Deal with River Spill (Update)

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Tiffin prepares to deal with river spill

March 9, 2000

TIFFIN - Officials are preparing a contingency plan in case a fertilizer spill into a Sandusky River tributary reaches this city on the river.

Dave Little, operations superintendent for the Ohio American Water Co., which supplies Tiffin, said yesterday that officials are concerned that high levels of ammonium from the spill last week could produce unsafe bacteria levels in the city's drinking water.

If that happens, the water company will shut its Sandusky River intake, forcing the city to rely on well water.

In that case, restrictions on water use are likely, because Tiffin uses an average of 2 million gallons a day, and the company's wells can pump just half of that, Mr. Little said.

Mr. Little and Marjorie Broadhead, Seneca County health commissioner, said that if necessary, they would ask factories, restaurants, and other large water users to limit or halt operations.

Mr. Little doesn't expect the ammonium from the spill to flow into the Tiffin area until late next week. In addition, it's likely that the chemical will be diluted enough by then to prevent any danger, he said.

"It's not impacting the water supply at this time," he said. "We're closely monitoring the situation."

Ammonium, he said, is not toxic itself, but it interferes with free chlorine, which prevents the growth of bacteria.

"The ammonium ties up the chlorine so it can't disinfect the water properly," Mr. Little said.

Ms. Broadhead said ammonium levels of 70 parts per million were recorded in the Sandusky River near Upper Sandusky, O. "For us to deal with it, we need it at 3 parts per million," she said.

She said her office is sharing information with the Sandusky County health department in Fremont, which is further downriver.

Ken Kerik, Sandusky County health commissioner, said Fremont plans to test river water for contaminants. "I think everybody's expectation is that we're so far downstream that it'll be pretty well diluted by the time it gets to us," he said.

The spill occurred Friday in the Marion County village of Morral, O., when a storage tank collapsed, spilling more than 1.5 million gallons of fertilizer. Joe Benson, the administrator of the Marion County health department, said the spill caused a "tidal wave" that breached a containment dike at the site.

Jim Leach, a spokesman for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, said state investigators believe as much as 500,000 gallons escaped, but they are unsure how much ended up in the Little Sandusky River, which flows into the Sandusky River. The river is the main source of drinking water for Tiffin, Fremont, and other northwest Ohio communities.

The owner of the tank, the Morral Companies, said efforts to clean up the fertilizer continued at the dike and an adjacent farm field, under the supervision of state and federal environmental officials. "A good bit has been recovered," Mr. Leach said.



-- (Dee360Degree@aol.com), March 09, 2000

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