HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) – Officials with the Huntington Sanitary Board say they are considering a permit application to further treat wastewater from around East Palestine, Ohio, following the February Norfolk Southern train derailment.
According to the HSB, the goal of this process will be to verify the water is clean enough to be discharged into the Ohio River. According to the Board, Norfolk Southern worked to “capture and remove” the water following the Feb. 3 derailment for an initial round of on-site treatment before it is brought to other cities, including Huntington, for additional processing.
The US Environmental Protection Agency, Ohio Department of Environmental Protection and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection have authorized the final stage of the treatment process to take place in Huntington Wastewater Treatment Plant. The three organizations will also be closely involved in monitoring and regulating the cleanliness of the water from East Palestine, the HSB says.
According to HSB officials, Norfolk Southern contracted wastewater treatment company Valicor to lead the further processing necessary to meet federal oversite requirements to assure the water is safe to deposit into the river. The board says following the initial treatment process, Valicor will test the water again at their facility prior to the third and final treatment process at the Huntington Wastewater Treatment Plant.
“Right now, the wastewater is being captured and contained in the East Palestine area and being treated onsite,” said Brian Bracey, Huntington Water Quality Board executive director. “Before it leaves that facility, the water must meet federal state and local standards for transportation to Valicor.”
According to the HSB, Valicor currently has a valid permit for wastewater treatment in Huntington, however, the board has asked for an additional permit to allow for additional oversight and control of this process. Part of the reason Huntington was chosen is that the treatment plant already “provides final treatment and discharge for multiple industrial customers, including Valicor, every day.”
The HSB says though their facilities are set to undergo significant upgrades to increase capacity in the near future, the Huntington Wastewater Treatment Plant’s current system is fully capable of completing the treatment process for the East Palestine water.
Officials say this process will be completely separated from the city’s supplies of drinking water, which will not be involved in this process. As Huntington’s water comes from West Virginia American Water, the city’s drinking water is maintained through a separate facility network than what will be used to treat the East Palestine water.
Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, who is one of the three HSB members, said the HSB and Water Quality Board will work to keep the public informed on the status of the project and ensure the water is safe and clean before its release into the Ohio River.
“I take the health and safety of every Huntingtonian seriously, and the members of the Sanitary Board will be holding all parties involved to the highest levels of accountability and scrutiny,” said Williams. “Knowing that we are responsible for the final treatment and discharge of the water reinforces Huntington Sanitary Board’s critical role in maintaining the health of the region’s watershed.”
The HSB also says when the water is cleared to be released into the Ohio River, it will be discharged downstream from the WV American Water intake, meaning it will not cross the path of the water brought in by the company for drinking water.