Cranes setup Monday, July 21, 2014 on the Neuse River as Duke Energy cleans up the site of an old gas plant on South Herritage Street. Tuesday, August 19, crews are investigating an oil spill at Duke Energy's Beckjord Station in New Richmond, Ohio. / Janet S. Carter, AP
NEW RICHMOND, Ohio - Crews are mopping up a about 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel that spilled into the Ohio River during a routine transfer at Duke Energy's Beckjord Station about 20 miles east of Cincinnati.
Fuel spilled into the river starting about 11:15 p.m. ET Monday and was stopped by 11:30, said Sally Thelen, Duke Energy spokeswoman.
"We notified state and local authorities of the incident and have been working with them throughout the overnight hours," said Chuck Whitlock, Duke Energy's president of Midwest Commercial Generation and vice president of gas operations. "We have cleanup crews on site that are identifying the appropriate actions that will be needed to remediate."
Crews have set up three stations between the plant and Coney Island amusement park, about 9 miles downriver from the spill, to skim the oil off the water, said Steve Renninger of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Almost 500 gallons have been cleaned up so far.
Officials originally calculated that about 8,000 gallons of fuel had spilled into the river, but once the sun came up, the estimate was lowered.
The Coast Guard closed a 15-mile stretch of the Ohio River from river mile marker 453, where the spill occurred, to mile marker 468.
Keeping boat and barge traffic out of the area is key, said Peter Tennant, executive director of the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, because it prevents diesel fuel that is sitting on the surface of the water from moving into water intakes, which are below the surface.
"This one is of major concern because of where it happened. Any time something happens upstream from a water intake, it is of major concern," he said. "You don't want to take chances with people's health."
Cincinnati's water department shut down intake valves on that stretch of river shortly after midnight, Director Tony Parrot said. Reserves are near capacity and residents won't feel any effect from the spill.
The spill is expected to take several days to clean up, said Chief Warrant Officer Mark Nemec with the Coast Guard's Cincinnati Marine Safety Detachment.
"It's not anything that's going to be very, very quick," he said.
Crews were dispatched to several areas Tuesday after reports of strong chemical odors were reported.
Jack Karnes who has lived near California Nature Preserve along the Ohio River downriver from New Richmond since 1939 said he's never seen a spill on the river like this and he knew exactly what was going on when he woke up and took a deep breath.
"I hauled oil for 10 years," he said. "I knew what it was."
Dave Palanci, who lives in the same neighborhood, said he also smelled the oil when he woke up.
"I knew what it was, but I didn't know where it was coming from," Palanci said. "You knew what it was as soon as you smelled it."
The men, who were sitting in Karnes' garage Tuesday morning, said they weren't concerned about the spill because oil sits on top of the water and most fish sit on the bottom of the river.
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