Ohio Water Treatment Official: Butyl Acrylate Detected in Ohio River Is ‘Decreasing a Bit as It Is Coming Down the River’

(CNSNews.com) – A water treatment official in Cincinnati, Ohio, told “CNN This Morning” on Friday that the hazardous chemical compound butyl acrylate has been detected in the Ohio River upstream from Cincinnati after the railroad derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, on Feb. 3.

“We’re working with a lot of partners with regional partners here from U.S. EPA, Ohio EPA and especially for the Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commission. So we’re going — we’re working with that group, getting samples from all up and down the Ohio River, and we’re bringing it here into our lab and doing these analyses,” said Jeff Swertfeger, water quality and treatment superintendent of Greater Cincinnati Water Works.

“Now fortunately, we’re not finding the high concentrations that they’re seeing up in the East Palestine area. Our concentrations are much less, and as it’s coming down the Ohio River, what we’re seeing is especially one compound that is being detected. It’s called butyl acrylate. That compound is actually decreasing a bit as it is coming down the river between its volatilizing being eaten up, the concentration becoming less and less as it is moving towards us,” he said. 

“So this is something we would not have detected before. The test that we do, we have a suite of tests we do all the time anyway to make sure the water is safe, so if there is anything in there we don’t know about, we’ll detect it. This compound would have been detected in that, and we haven’t detected it before, but now we’re detecting it upstream of the city of Cincinatti,” Swertfeger said.

When asked how people can trust the water testing, Swertfeger said, “I think in our part, you know, we’re drinking water, too. I’m drinking it. My family is drinking it. I don’t want to drink this stuff. So I want to make sure that we’re doing as good a job as we can to characterize what is happening and also looking at our treatment. 


“We’ve done a lot of work working at our treatment plant and making sure that we remove it, and we feel that we’re—we have several barriers here. We can remove it, and even before that, we can shut down and not bring the water in for a while. So if we see the contaminants getting close to us that’s usually our first action is just shut down and let it go by altogether,” he said.

On concerns about the rain washing down chemicals into the water, Swertfeger said, “Well, we have monitoring systems set up and will detect something else. Something else gets washed into the river. We will detect it and have several weeks’ notice before it gets to us. Because of this monitoring system that we set up, we feel we’re in really good condition to be able to detect something if it does get washed out up there.”

When asked how long such monitoring will take place, Swertfeger said, “This particular—this event may be will be maybe three weeks in duration in total for us, but, again, we have a monitoring system, so if something else comes down, we’ll detect it and then we’ll start over then with the monitoring.”

Asked how to square the contradictory messages that residents are given that the water is safe but to drink bottled water, Swertfeger said, “I think what the Ohio Department of Health is saying is get your water tested.  A lot of people up there in East Palestine have their own private wells. That’s a very different situation than what we have when we have a centralized drinking water system. 

“So there is free testing that ODH is doing for those people. I absolutely they should have their wells tested, not just now but later on in the future, too, to make sure nothing else gets into there,” he said.

Swertfeger said he’s not sure that East Palestine should be “a super fund site, but I certainly think that there needs to be a lot of effort put in to it right now to characterize what is there, to clean up what is there, but, yeah, I think they need a lot of attention up there.”


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