Ohio River Algae Advisory Resurfaces
Health department issues new river warning
28 August 2015
By Joselyn King & Linda Comins, Staff Writers
WHEELING - The Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department is again
cautioning boaters and swimmers about activities on the Ohio River
after more blue-green algae blooms were found on the river
Despite this caution, dragon boat races slated for Saturday in
Wheeling will go on at Heritage Port as planned, according to
organizers. Participants will be given hand sanitizer and other
precautions will be taken.
Additionally, officials at the Wheeling Water Plant say they are
continuing to add river water to the water system, and they don't
expect to issue any water conservation advisories.
Boats sit idle Thursday on the Ohio River. Local health officials
are urging caution after more algae was found in the river this
Water samples were gathered Wednesday by the Ohio River Valley
Sanitation Commission above the Pike Island Locks and Dam. ORSANCO
reported seeing less noticeable algae than what was observed last
week, though some significant blooms were noticed in waterways
entering the river.
Sampling is now being conducted below the Pike Island Locks and
Dam area, ending in New Martinsville. Significant blooms were seen
near the back channel of Wheeling Island and near McMahon Creek.
The dragon boat races in Wheeling Saturday are a first-time event,
and a fundraiser for King's Daughters Child Care Center in
"The race is going to go on," event organizer Jamie Remp said.
"We're taking all of the precautions. We'll have hand sanitizer
for the participants."
Remp said Howard Gamble, administrator of the Wheeling-Ohio County
Health Department, met with the dragon boat committee Thursday
afternoon, and members are working closely with him.
Gamble said more information about the algae advisory will be
coming later in the week after additional testing is completed,
and directives could change.
For now, he said the health department is not in the position to
tell the race organizers they should cancel their event, but he
did suggest to them three options to help participants stay safe.
The first was to provide a wash-off station with clean water at
the port. The water can be used to hose down participants and
their boats and belongings before they leave for home.
His second suggestion was to provide hand sanitizer to
participants, as hands become contaminated quicker than others
parts of the body. Hand sanitizer should be used before touching
any water bottles or food at the event, according to Gamble.
Thirdly, he advises participates to "wash everything" from
clothes, to shoes to equipment when they get home.
Water samples first taken by ORSANCO and the Ohio Environmental
Protection Agency on Aug. 19 at Pike Island showed elevated levels
of blue-green algae, also known as Cyanobacteria. The formation of
the algae on the river has been attributed to hard rain storms on
the morning of Aug. 18.
The algae was found near the intakes for the Wheeling Water Plant,
and officials there closed the intakes to keep river water from
entering the water system. The system operated on its wells
through Aug. 21, when samples indicated the algae was dissipating
from the river water.
Testing this week indicated the algae returned, though at a lesser
Water plant employees said Thursday they had not closed the
intakes, and had no immediate plans to do so or issue a water
conservation order. They said they learned last week the water
system can operate for an extended time on just its wells.