Lewisburg water plant returns to normal operations Tuesday after getting the all clear from the EPA
A diesel spill into Anthony Creek, a tributary of the Greenbrier River, on Friday January 23rd, forced the closure of the Lewisburg water plant, leaving some 12,000 residents and businesses without water. A quick response by local and state emergency management mitigated the chance of contamination at the water plant and other areas around Lewisburg served by that system. Tuesday morning brought good news to Lewisburg Mayor John Manchester.
“The detailed tests that the EPA took two days ago came back last night,” he said. “All showed no detect [sic] levels of any hydrocarbon or diesel at our intake. So what that means is that the bureau of public health in Charleston on a conference call last night gave us the authorization to start up the plant again to start pumping water, which we have done. And now water is flowing throughout the whole system and starting to charge up peoples lines, first in the lower areas, then in the mid elevation ones. It could be a good 24-36 hours in the higher elevation parts of our system actually receive enough water to go about their daily business.”
He said businesses are beginning to re-open.
“That’s a case by case situation,” he said. “That call is made by the health department and it really depends on what situation they’ve got. Some of the food establishments even yesterday because they submitted an alternate plan to the health department that was approved for take-out and drive-thru, because they had enough potable water to be able to assure the health department that everything was up to normal hygiene standards.”
The mayor said it’s likely that users of the water system will remain under a boil water advisory for the next few days until health dept tests determine that the water from the plant is back up to acceptable standards. This is standard practice whenever the water system pressure falls below a certain level.
“It’s not like a derecho where everybody loses power, this one’s just water; and the stores who are not serving food, obviously they can all re-open,” said the mayor. “I think people been kept in for a little while so they’re interested in going out and spreading their wings a little bit, so I think people will be more on the streets certainly than they were yesterday. But finding a place to eat will be on a case by case basis depending on whether the health department has given an authorization to proceed for that establishment.”
The accident Friday night dumped thousands of gallons of diesel fuel into Anthony Creek.
“The driver did not get hurt at all; in fact as I understand it, the driver lost his load,” said Manchester. “The tanker separated from his trailer and from his cab and just continued on around a curve right on into the ditch line where the tributary was flowing.”
He said they will continue to monitor the area affected by the spill for any lasting effects.
“Well the EPA is keeping the boom up in the area around our intake just as a total precautionary measure in case there was anything else residual there that would break away and would need to be caught,” he said. “It’s hard to tell exactly what happened; there was boom up in the Blue Bend area as well. So the question of the what the lasting impact – did any of it settle into the bank, did any of it not release yet, I don’t think I know that yet.”
“I think we’ll continue to take tests to make sure everything is okay. For myself, you know I always do the polar bear swim [usually held at Blue Bend lake] early in March, so I’m interested in that place being clean as well.”