OHIO--Update, Spll Treated as Water Reaches Tiffin (Sandusky River)

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Spill treated as water reaches Tiffin

March 14, 2000

TIFFIN - Liquid fertilizer that spilled a week ago into a Sandusky River tributary has made its way to Tiffin earlier than expected, but it has not affected the city's water supply.

Water officials said yesterday that they've been cleaning the water since Sunday with a higher content of chlorine and well water.

Water officials say that the spill didn't affect the Sandusky River, which is the main source of drinking water for a number of communities in northwest Ohio. ( Blade photo) When the chlorine levels are reduced, the end product is safe for human consumption, health officials said. The water is being tested every two hours.

"The public may notice a different odor. Other than that, there's no problem," said Marjorie Broadhead, Seneca County health commissioner. "We've been very, very blessed that it's come in at the level it's come in at."

Officials had feared that high levels of ammonium from the spill could produce unsafe bacteria levels in the city's drinking water.

The city's water supplier has an intake pipe in the river.

Ammonium, though not toxic itself, interferes with chlorine, which prevents the growth of bacteria.

Ms. Broadhead said the ammonium levels were less than 3 parts per million yesterday, and the water plant can handle levels of up to 5 parts per million.

"We're very happy with the results we're getting," said David Little, operations superintendent for the Ohio American Water Co.

Company officials originally thought they might have to shut their river intake, restrict citywide water usage, or rely on five wells.

But Mr. Little said the fertilizer was more diluted than expected.

He said it should only remain in the Tiffin area through today at the latest. Sandusky County officials said the fertilizer, in an even more diluted state, could arrive in Fremont by tomorrow.

"I think everybody's pretty much prepared to deal with it," said Ken Kerik, Sandusky County's health commissioner.

The spill occurred March 3 in the Marion County village of Morral, O., when a storage tank collapsed, spilling more than 1.5 million gallons of fertilizer.

Jim Leach, a spokesman for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, said state investigators believe as much as 500,000 gallons escaped, but they remain 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.

Mr. Leach said that Ohio EPA officials continue to monitor drinking water in the communities, but he said no problems have been reported.

"I think, while it's unfortunate it happened, it could have been a lot worse than it turned out to be," Mr. Leach said.

Fish, namely spawning walleye, shouldn't be affected by fertilizer in the Sandusky River, which is popular for walleye runs in the spring.

Larry Goedde, a fish supervisor for the Ohio Division of Wildlife, said the form of ammonium that's being released into the water is safe for the walleye.

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-- (Dee360Degree@aol.com), March 14, 2000


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-- (Dee360Degree@aol.com), March 14, 2000.

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