Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bridge closed when deck drops. Situation normal.

When your Ohio River bridge is 90 years old and has to be closed in sudden temperature changes, you might expect things like this. The bridge between Ironton, Ohio, and Russell, Ky., was closed the other day when part of the metal grid deck dropped a few inches.

This is the bridge Adam doesn't like crossing.

Hat tip to Dangerous Dan.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Trouble at Montgomery Locks and Dam

Check this out. Four of the dam gates on the Montgomery Locks and Dam up near Pittsburgh are in such bad condition they are considered inoperable.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A cold, rainy day

It was chilly and wet this morning, leading me to think it had been a while since I had taken my camera to the Ohio River bank in such weather. So away I went. Here are a few of the pictures I got.

First, the street leading to the boat ramp and park at the mouth of the Guyandotte River, as seen through the windshield as the traffic light changes from red to green.

The mouth of the Guyandotte.

The East End bridge as seen through trees that are about to lose their leaves.

The East End bridge as seen from the mouth of Indian Guyan Creek in Ohio.

Coal barges, with their colors enhanced by rain.

The M/V Jean Akin, pushing the barges.

And downtown Huntington.

In the news, 10/28/12

Catching up on a few recent news items related to the Ohio River:

Bugs: For years, biologists have analyzed fish tissue to gauge the water quality in rivers. But in the Ohio River, researchers are now looking at bugs, too.

A couple of years ago, I was talking with someone from ORSANCO about their fish surveys, and I was asking about research into populations of smaller critters in the river. I forget his answer, but it's interesting to hear that it's going on.

My only problem is when this article says an abundance and diversity of mayflies means the ecosystem is healthy. I really, really don't like those things.

Monitoring: The West Virginia Water Research Institute at West Virginia University, with the help of the Colcom Foundation, is expanding its successful Monongahela River water quality
monitoring program to include the upper Ohio and Allegheny rivers.

Mercury: Finally, here's a piece I did about ORSANCO's vote earlier this month to allow a chemical plant in northern West Virginia to continue to use a mixing zone in the Ohio River for its mercury discharges, and how ORSANCO sort of expects other companies to apply for exemptions to the no-mixing-zone rule. I can't find the article on the Internet for posting a link, so here is the text

PPG's chemical factory in Marshall County could be the first of several industrial installations along the Ohio River to receive variances from a rule banning the use of mixing zones to dilute bioaccumulative materials.

"We suspect that there are other dischargers who will need to apply for variances. We just haven't received any yet," said Peter Tennant, executive director of the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO).

ORSANCO is the water pollution control agency for the Ohio River and its tributaries. It represents the states of West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, New York and Virginia, along with the federal government.

At a meeting in Louisville, Ky., earlier this month, commission members voted unanimously to grant the five-year variance regarding PPG's discharge of mercury.

"They applied for it and complied with all the information requests the commission made, Tennant said. PPG would have had difficulty meeting discharge standards given the technology used at its plant at Natrium, and there are other problems on the site that contribute more mercury to the river than the production process, Tennant said.
"Overall, what the commission is asking for is a greater overall reduction in mercury from the site than what would be achieved with more treatment," he said.

PPG Industries' plant at Natrium, near the Wetzel County line, manufactures about 995 tons of chlorine per day from brine. The plant uses two types of production technology: three diaphragm cell circuits and one mercury cell circuit. The mercury cell process utilizes elemental mercury to produce chlorine and high-strength, high-purity sodium hydroxide.

Tennant said not all the mercury that is discharged Natrium comes from the production process. The plant is on an old site, and various contaminated areas could be contributing mercury to the discharge, he said.

The ORSANCO rule banning the use of mixing zones takes effect Oct. 16, 2013.

ORSANCO's variance came with six conditions:

The commission's regulations must be met at all points in the river outside of a small area of mixing.
PPG has developed a comprehensive mercury reduction plan, which must be fully implemented.
PPG is required to conduct monthly water quality monitoring and annual fish tissue monitoring to demonstrate compliance with the commission's regulations.
PPG is required to submit annual progress reports to the commission to demonstrate full implementation of its mercury reduction plan and compliance with all requirements of this variance.
The commission reserves the right to modify, renew, or revoke the variance at its discretion at any time.
The variance will not interfere with West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection's authorities.

After ORSANCO granted the variance, PPG issued the following statement:

"PPG is pleased that ORSANCO has elected to grant a variance allowing a mixing zone for mercury discharges from the Natrium chlor-alkali and derivatives plant effective October 2013. Granting the requested variance allows PPG to continue operating all of the chlor-alkali circuits at the Natrium plant while protecting the water quality-related interests of ORSANCO and affected states.

"PPG has clearly demonstrated commitment to protecting human health and the environment. PPG has substantially reduced mercury emissions from the Natrium plant, and, in fact, has cut mercury water emissions by 70 percent since 2006, including a 42 percent reduction from 2010 to 2011. In addition, PPG has committed to a detailed five-year mercury concentration reduction plan which will result in continued reduction in mercury concentrations in the PPG Natrium water discharge.

"The PPG Natrium plant has been in operation since 1943 and is a major employer in the Ohio Valley, employing more than 500 people. The site manufactures chemicals, primarily chlorine and caustic soda, which have a wide variety of end-uses including water purification, paper and plastics production and as key building blocks for pharmaceuticals."

On July 19, PPG announced that its board of directors had approved definitive agreements under which PPG will separate its commodity chemicals business, which includes the Natrium facility, and merge it with Georgia Gulf Corp. or one of its subsidiaries. Following completion of the transaction, which is expected to occur in late 2012 or early 2013, the combined company is expected to have annual revenues of approximately $5 billion and be the third largest chlor-alkali producer and second-largest vinyl chloride monomer producer in North America.

Friday, October 26, 2012

In a hurry home

I didn't have my good camera with me, so I had to do this with a smartphone. It looks like the pilot of the working sternwheeler Major wanted to get off the Kanawha River and home yesterday evening. The boat was moving at a good clip, and the sternwheel was kicking up a lot of water.

It reminded me of the book about the Delta Queen by Fred Way. When the boat was brought to the Ohio River in the late 1940s, the sternwheel was covered so it would not spray passengers. Yeah, that cover was removed before the boat was put in service in this part of the country.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fall colors and the Mike Weisend

Sorry it took so long, but here are some photos I got of the M/V Mike Weisend as it passed Huntington and beyond on Sunday.

Someone on the boat contacted me via Facebook to let me know the boat was in my area and there was some color along the river. So even if it was midday, I went down to the river and got a few of the Weisend.

That evening, Adam and I saw it as it approached the Robert C. Byrd Locks shortly after sunset.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Decent colors today

I got a note from a towboat pilot this morning saying the river was looking nice with fall colors, and his boat was in my area if I wanted to get a few pictures.

So I did.

Problem is, I had/have a bunch of stuff to do, so maybe late tonight or more likely tomorrow evening I'll post a few of the M/V Mike Weisend as it passed through my area today.

Now back to the less exciting parts of being an adult. ...

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Missed it; catching up

Thanks to whatever it is I had, I've pretty much been stuck in the house since Wednesday afternoon, right when the leaves around here were peaking. I did get out for a little while Friday afternoon but only because I needed to get some money out of the bank. While I was out, I got a photo of the M/V Alvin C. Johnson passing Huntington. I did that only because I didn't have a picture of the Johnson, and to me it was freezing (actually, in the 50s with wind).

But today I've been feeling okay, and I took Adam to his grandmother's for the weekend, which means I did both sides of the Ohio between Huntington and Point Pleasant. The leaves weren't very bright, possibly because of the heavy cloud cover but more likely because the rich golds have already peaked and fallen.

So, I looked down at the river and saw a few leaves floating on the surface, including this one.

Odd, isn't it, how the tiny parts of the leave sticking above the surface make their own ripples?

I'll try again for some good fall photos tomorrow. No promised, though.

Congratulations, C.R.

We've met him in person only once, but Adam and I have chatted with him via the Internet many times in the past five years. Today C.R. Neale -- towboat pilot and river photographer -- walked down the aisle with his longtime sweetheart, Ramsey Alyce Warwick.

Congratulations, C.R. If your marriage is half as good as mine, you'll be doing might fine.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Off topic: Harry Fisher

I got word yesterday that someone I worked with at the Huntington newspaper many years ago had passed away. Harry Fisher was the news editor. He was the guy who ran the copy desk: the people who lay out pages, write headlines and catch spelling and grammar errors before they get into the paper.

A lot of people who knew Harry use the same word to describe him: nice. And that he was. He was not a corporate ladder climber who saw people in the newsroom as rungs on the ladder of success. You know what you do with rungs when you climb the ladder. You step on them. Harry wasn’t like that. He was easygoing. He was soft spoken. He was easy to work with. He was one of those guys who if I was starting a news operation from scratch, I would want a guy like him on my team.

Here’s the story-style obit for Harry, for those who want to read a little more.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Stars and Stripes

I don't think I used this from the Tribute to the River at Point Pleasant last month. If I did, then forgive me. But this is one I got of two guys raising the flag on the sternwheeler Laura J Major as the sun was setting and the park was getting dark.

I was going to try for a fancy effect, but it wasn't working for me. But then, who needs something fancy when you have Old Glory herself?

Back to real life

Now that the Reds, Nationals and Orioles have been eliminated from the NBA, er, major league baseball playoffs, I can get back to productive pursuits, like this blog.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A great place to fish

Today has been a different kind of day for me at work. I went to Charleston and picked up 18 boxes (110 copies each, about 50 pounds each) of our Compass edition, which is geared to high school students. I delivered them to people at various schools here in the Huntington WV area where I live. I needed to call the boss to let her know the mission had been accomplished, so I chose a nice spot at a park along the Ohio River to make the call.

Before I headed out to finish my work day doing other things, I stopped by the park and boat ramp at the mouth of the Guyandotte River. I really wished I had my good camera with me when I took this bridge of the Frank "Gunner" Gatski Memorial Bridge, known locally as the East End bridge or the 31st Street bridge, or on this blog as my favorite bridge. So I had to use a camera in a phone.

What got me about this scene was not the wonderful October day or the fact there were ducks and crows all around me. If you look at the pier on the right of this picture you might see a guy in a boat, fishing.

As I took in this scene, I understood that the beauty of his fishing spot had nothing to do with whether he was catching anything but with how he could enjoy the sun and the river and, thanks to the pier, be shielded from towboat wake. I know a boat had passed by a little while before I got here, because I could see it in the distance heading away from us.

But I was thinking how nice it would be to sit in a small boat out in the river, fishing or pretending to be fishing, taking in the sun on such a great day to be outdoors under the best-looking bridge on the Ohio River.

Mercury mixing zone extended

The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission has voted to give PPG Industries at Natrium, W.Va., in the northern part of the state, another five years to comply with new rules that further limit how much mercury plants can discharge into the Ohio River. Details here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Scary bridges

Last night I encountered a traffic jam on the way home from work, so I took an alternate route that ended up being longer than what I probably would have had to deal with on the interstate. As part of that route I drove across an old bridge that I found almost scary. It was narrow. It shook when normal traffic went past, so I was glad there was a strict weight limit. And it looked like it hadn't been painted since Betty White was in high school.

That bridge was over the Kanawha River. My question is, are there any old bridges over the Ohio River that are borderline scary? Old, narrow ones that shake? Otherwise okay, but too much traffic? I'm guessing there are some between Wheeling and Pittsburgh, and I assume the Brent Spence Bridge at Cincinnati would be on the list, but I would like to know if there are any highway bridges over the Ohio that people go out of their way to avoid.

Leave a note in the comments if you have a bridge for the list.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

At the Capitol

My coworker "Sweet" Ann Ali was going from one committee room at the West Virginia State Capitol today when she looked out the window on one stairwell. She saw a boat pushing coal barges down the Kanawha River, thought of me and snapped a photo. She placed it on Twitter and ...

... I downloaded it.

I think this is the M/V Escatawpa.

My Twitter handle, for anyone who wants to follow me, is JimRoss9.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Thanks, Shawn

The deckhand on the AEP Legacy who posed as I shot photos of his boat led to one of the best days here at the Ohio River Blog in months, if not in the three and a half years the blog has been up. We had more page views today than normal -- 2 or 3 times more. So thanks, Shawn, for making this a good day at the Ohio River Blog.

Head of the tow

If you have to work on a warm autumn day, is there a better place to be than at the head of a one-barge tow?

Probably not.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


So did this guy on the M/V AEP Legacy know his pose would make it on the Ohio River Blog?

I hope so.

O Appalachia, Where Art Thou?

At the rate they're going, it won't be long before Detroit and Omaha are officially listed as part of Appalachia.

The official boundaries of the region served by the Appalachian Regional Commission have always amused me. At one place, there must be close to a hundred miles of the Ohio River where the Ohio side is in Appalachia but the Kentucky side is not. Back in the 1980s, I saw a Corps of Engineers map that showed the boundaries of the "Appalachian geophysical province," and it ended just west of Portsmouth, Ohio. It didn't come anywhere near Elizabethtown, Ky., or Cincinnati.

In one class I had at Ohio University (the Harvard on the Hocking, they call it) back in the 1970s, the professor had us give arguments for whether Appalachia ended at the Ohio River. That is, is Parkersburg in Appalachia but Marietta not? The more I think about it after all these years, especially after marrying someone who grew up near a real southern West Virginia coal camp, I don't know that the core of Appalachia even touches the Ohio River. In some ways, yes. In a lot of ways, no.

The ARC has always been a political tool for funneling federal money to communities whose politicians can get it. Adding Elizabethtown, Ky., and Erie, Pa., to "Appalachia" proves that.

No sunrise today

So I set the alarm to get up early on a Saturday morning to go to one of my favorite spots along the Ohio River to watch the sun rise. Sunrise is my favorite time of the day, when the dark of night gives way to the light of day. It's almost like the world hits the reset button at that time.

But as the morning light came, all I saw in the sky was a thick layer of low gray clouds. No sunrise this morning. That leaves laundry and housecleaning as the fun items on my to-do list.

Maybe I can console myself by pulling up this photo from time to time today.

Anyway, that's why Thomas Edison invented tomorrow. Maybe the clouds will be gone by then.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Autumn morning on the Ohio River

This morning I dropped Adam off at school and headed off to work. Between those two I stopped by the East End bridge here at Huntington WV to see if anything was happening, and I saw what I think was the Wally Roller upbound.

For the record, this was between 7:30 and 8 a.m.

This was a small compensation for being unable to get a couple of good photos the past couple of days because of heavy traffic, unsafe shooting conditions or bad timing.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Someone's gotta keep this boat clean

If you look at these two gentlemen, the one on the left is holding a mop handle, and the one on the right is holding a hose that he's using to spray the deck with.

This is, I suppose, one of the more unglamorous parts of working on the river.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Geese in Catlettsburg

There wasn't a whole lot of traffic on the Ohio River yesterday when I was out there looking for it, but I did find something else. Along the river in Catlettsburg, Ky., there's a new sign advising people of a goose crossing. A few minutes after I saw the sign, I saw two geese come up from the river's edge. I'm no goose-ologist, but one of them looked like a swan goose like we have at the riverfront park in Huntington. Here it is swimming by some empty Crounse barges tied up at Catlettsburg.

The other goose was almost all white, but it had the same patterns on its wings. It did not, though, have the bump over the bill that this one has.

Looking back

Off and on for the past two weeks, I've been looking at some of the photos of the Ohio, Kanawha and Big Sandy rivers that I've taken the past five years. And you know what? There are some pictures in my collection that were better than I thought they were when I took them.

I've spent so much time lately trying to outdo myself that I've not appreciated some of the good stuff I've already done. Pardon me if that sounds a bit prideful, but as Dizzy Dean said, it ain't braggin' if you done it.

And there are some photos that I thought were pretty good when I took them three years ago but when I look at them now, I say, eh, whatever. Funny how time changes your appreciation of what's good and what's not.