Algae Problems Continue on Ohio River
Water safe to drink, but use conservatively
22 August 2015
By Joselyn King, Staff Writer
WHEELING - Wheeling's water is safe to drink, but all Ohio County
residents should refrain from unnecessary water use as blue-green
algae continues to be an issue near water system intakes on the
A water conservation order is in effect for the entire county as
the city of Wheeling feeds other water systems throughout Ohio
County, said Howard Gamble, administrator for the Ohio County
None of the contaminated river water is running into Wheeling's
water supply. The city has turned off its water intakes on the
river, and the water system is currently operating on its wells -
which account for about 60 percent of daily water production.
The health department also is asking that you not do open burning
of trash or yard debris," Gamble said. "The city will not be
issuing permits. ... If there is a large fire, you have to use an
abundance of water to fight it. If we can limit the risk, it helps
out a lot."
People should not swim in the Ohio River until the algae has
passed by - and they also shouldn't drink the water directly from
the river, according to Gamble.
It is believed the heavy rainstorms early Tuesday morning
contributed to the formation of the blooms. Water testing on
Wednesday at the Pike Island Lock and Dam indicated elevated
levels of blue-green algae on the river. The algae, at high
concentrations, can cause health problems such as skin irritation,
eye irritation or intestinal illnesses.
The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission conducted
testing at the Pike Island Lock and Dam on Friday, and determined
blue-green algae blooms - also called cyanobacteria - still were
present on the river.
While barges help to break them up, what is needed is a softer,
steady rain to clean them from the river, Gamble said.
"The algae is a difficult thing to work with," he said. "The best
thing is for it to move downstream and begin to work itself out of
There are no chemicals available to treat the algae.
Lori Siburt, manager of Wheeling's water plant, said Friday's
samples indicated while the algae was still present in the river,
it is now in a less concentrated form. She also said the water
system can continue to supply the area on just water from its
wells for an extended time depending on demand.
"I don't feel it's anything big to be concerned about," she said.
"I think everything will be fine. The big thing is that there
should be no people swimming in the river. And hopefully, nobody
is drinking the river water.
"For now, Wheeling is doing its best to monitor and put out safe