DEP Reveals Scope Of Algae’s Spread in River

Health advisories remain in effect

Wheeling Intelligencer
5 September 2015
By Linda Comins, Staff Writer

WHEELING - The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has released a series of aerial photographs showing blue-green algae blooms on the Ohio River.

The department's aerial assessment of the river, conducted this week, extended from the Huntington area north to the mouth of Buffalo Creek at Wellsburg.

John Wirts, assistant director of WVDEP's Division of Water and Waste Management, said the presence of a blue-green algae bloom does not equate to the presence of toxins.

Wirts, who is assigned to the division's Watershed Assessment Branch, said he Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission and state health departments will be posting any results of new toxins analysis as soon as they are available.

Health advisories in the region remain in place and close monitoring continues of area water supplies as blue-green algae blooms are still visible in the Ohio River and some tributaries.

Howard Gamble, administrator of the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department, said health department officials are monitoring the river, along with their partners at the city of Wheeling, West Virginia Bureau of Public Health and ORSANCO.

Both the Wheeling-Ohio County and Marshall County health departments have issued health advisories for individuals using the Ohio River. Residents are advised to use caution when swimming, boating, fishing or doing other recreational water activities in the river. Special cautionary steps are in place for participants in the Wheeling Vintage Raceboat Regatta this weekend.

"Public drinking water supplied from the Wheeling Water Department, including Ohio County Public Service District, will continue to be closely monitored," Gamble said. "Public drinking water supplied by the Wheeling Water Department continues to be safe to drink."

Russell Jebbia, Wheeling public works director, and Dave Nickerson, city water division superintendent, could not be reached for comment Friday on the protective measures being taken currently or on the long-term impact of the blue-green algae problem.