Hazardous Spills

Potomac River Basin Drinking Water Source Protection Partnership

Sudden events can occur which threaten the safety of our water supply. A wastewater treatment plant may accidentally discharge water containing raw sewage into the Potomac River. A tractor-trailer truck transporting hazardous chemicals may overturn and spill its contents into a Potomac tributary. An oil pipeline may rupture and release thousands of gallons of petroleum product into a basin stream. Each of these are examples of events that have occurred in the past. Water suppliers must be prepared to respond to these and other unknown types of events.

Recent spills like the January 2014 chemical storage leak into the Elk River, the drinking water source for Charleston, West Virginia, and the increasing number of train accidents related to Bakken crude oil transportation, serve as reminders that these types of events do occur and the drinking water community needs to be able to respond to any type of event. The best way to prepare for a spill is to gather information on the types of threats that exist in the source water area, develop plans to respond to the most likely events, and repeatedly practice and refine response procedures.

The Partnership’s Early Warning and Emergency Response Workgroup works with the basin’s utilities and response agencies to prepare, practice, and respond to spills of hazardous materials.