Industries, Drillers Aid Police in Ohio River Shore Security

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
27 February 2012
By Matthew Santoni

Riverfront industries and gas drillers are helping police in Beaver County establish response plans for emergencies along the Ohio River shore and raise money to operate a patrol boat.

"It's a very busy part of the river system," said James McCarville, executive director of the Port of Pittsburgh Commission.

In August, police in Beaver and Center formed the Beaver Valley River Response Task Force and used a $187,000 federal grant to buy a patrol and rescue boat for the stretch of river from the Ohio border to the Dashields Lock & Dam in Leetsdale.

Since then, officers have worked with industries and towns along the river — including FirstEnergy's Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Station and the coal-powered Bruce Mansfield Power Station, both in Shippingport — to set up agreements for emergency responses and waterfront safety patrols, said Detective James DeGori of Beaver.

"Any industry that has an interest in the waterway would have an interest in the boat," said Center police Chief Barry Kramer. Emergencies that disrupt or delay river traffic could affect industries along the Ohio, Monongahela and Allegheny rivers, he noted.

So far, police have raised about $20,000 through agreements with companies and by selling ads on the side of the truck and trailer for towing the boat, which costs about $5,000 a year in fuel and maintenance. That cost does not include personnel, who come from the two towns' police departments and receive extra training and licensing, Kramer said.

The boat is stored for the winter, awaiting equipment upgrades such as a new radio and on-board battery charger, Kramer said.

Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Jeff Hawk said the task force could help respond to emergencies at the Montgomery Locks & Dam in Industry, and it participated in a drill in autumn simulating a medical emergency aboard a boat passing through the lock. Given Montgomery's advanced age and decrepit conditions, it's good to have extra help if a problem occurs, he said.

Jennifer Young, spokeswoman for Akron, Ohio-based FirstEnergy, said the task force would supplement existing river protection through the Coast Guard, cutting response time to emergencies and adding security for the Beaver Valley power plant.

"This provides a more constant presence from the water," Young said.

The next step, DeGori said, is forming partnerships with other industries that could affect the rivers, such as drilling companies tapping natural gas reserves in the Marcellus shale.

He said he is researching which gas companies have sites near the river, to set up assistance agreements for fires or spills.

The boat could assist with environmental emergencies by deploying floating booms to control spills. It also could fight fires with a water cannon or a pump that rapidly refills tanker trucks with river water, and it could assist with search and rescue operations, DeGori said.

Matthew Santoni can be reached at or 412-380-5625.