Henrico commits multiple resources to effort monitoring oil spill in James River

Henrico County continues to monitor Wednesday’s crude oil spill into the James River following a CSX train derailment in Lynchburg and is taking a number of precautionary measures to protect its water supply.

County officials anticipate the oil could flow into the region after 6 p.m. today, based on estimates from state agencies and CSX. Officials emphasized there continues to be no indication the oil will enter the county’s water supply.

Assistant Director of Public Utilities William Mawyer said the county’s intake was 10 feet below the level of the James River yesterday, a depth that should allow any oil to pass over. If necessary, the county is prepared to close the intake temporarily.

On Wednesday, Henrico began filling its water storage tanks, which have a capacity of 35 million gallons. The water treatment plant has turned up its ozone disinfection system as an additional precaution, Mawyer said, noting that water quality is tested continuously as standard practice.

Henrico is taking hourly samples from the river and analyzing them for the presence of hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons were not detectable in the water samples taken today at approximately 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m., Mawyer said. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is assisting with the sampling.

The Division of Fire has launched two swift-water rescue boats, staffed by firefighters from the marine patrol and hazardous materials team, to help assess water quality. The team is deploying its detection and monitoring equipment above the county’s James River intake.

The Division of Police’s Metro Aviation Unit is conducting reconnaissance flights upriver of Buckingham County to look for and monitor any oil sheen on the river. CSX and the Virginia State Police are providing helicopters to assist with river observations.

Representatives from Henrico Fire and the Henrico County Health Department are in Lynchburg assisting with the on-site response and assessing potential impacts to central Virginia.

County officials continue to work with state agencies including the departments of Health, Emergency Management and Environmental Quality, the city of Richmond and CSX.

“Henrico County has multiple resources engaged in this effort and is tracking this situation closely as it continues to develop,” County Manager John A. Vithoulkas said.

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