Saturday, January 18, 2014

Some pictures from South America

If you want to see some old Ohio River towboats in their new homes in South America, you need to follow the Flickr photostreams of guys like Gustavo di Iorio and Guillermo Barrios.

I saw this one tonight and said, wow. I showed it to Adam and he said, wow.

I don't know anything about the boat in the picture, but it and the photos that follow are pretty cool.

And here's one of Gustavo's photos of an old Hillman boat in South America.

Cool stuff.

If anyone knows of any other South American towboat photo groups or photographers, please let me know.

Chemical spill approaches Evansville

As of yesterday I'm devoting more time at work covering the leak in the Elk River that contaminated the drinking water of 300,000 people -- about one-sixth the population of West Virginia.

Yesterday I did four news articles:

A federal lawsuit filed against the company that operated the tank farm, the company that manufactured the chemical and the water company.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention talks about how you determine a safety level for a chemical on which you have practically no information.

How three U.S. Senators are preparing legislation for closer regulation of tank farms.

And how one coal company uses this chemical to wash coal, and how it describes the likelihood of the chemical entering the watershed.

As of today, the plume has drifted down the Elk and Kanawha rivers to the Ohio. It's passed Cincinnati and Louisville and is approaching Evansville.

For those who are interested, water service has been restored to all areas that had been under a "Do Not Use" order, but many people still do not trust the water. Sales of bottled water will probably be pretty good for a while.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Elk River leak

I was hoping that (stuff) that spilled in the Elk River last week would not cause problems on the Ohio. But the Wall Street Journal is tracking it, and people in Cincinnati are ready to shut down their intakes when the licorice-smelling (stuff) gets there.

I had to have an emergency windshield repair made yesterday, so I took my car to the place that replaced the windshield this past November. This place happens to be across the river from where the (stuff) leaked. When I got out of my car, the air was heavy with the smell of licorice, and I don't like licorice.

People where I work in downtown Charleston keep checking for updates on when they can flush their home plumbing and shower and cook again. But one guy I work with had an interesting take in the situation.

The only reason you can smell the stuff that leaked is because it has an odorant added to it, just as natural gas does. Considering how lackadaisical the company that stored the stuff was about reporting the leak, if it hadn't been for the odor, we might be drinking heavy concentrations of that stuff now and not even knowing it.

It reminds me of what happened at a couple of other big leaks that fouled water supplies, but that's a memory for another time.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Three boats, no sewer nostalgia

Today I found myself down by the river watching boats.

First was the M/V A.B.York, which I saw at South Point, Ohio, yesterday.

I don't know what was in the barge it was pushing, but the barge looked really new. I thought I saw the number "2013" on it, which would explain a lot.

I saw another boat coming upriver. I was going to ignore it, but as it got closer I noticed it looked awful funny on the front.

 So I watched it from the bridge, and this was what was on the front of the lead barge.

There was a similar structure on the next barge back. The barges were carrying anhydrous ammonia. I assume these structures had something to do with that.

And I saw this gentleman carrying a mop.

And here's the boat -- the Lydia Brent -- heading upriver past Huntington WV.

Off in the distance, I saw another boat, but I figured why wait. So I drove down the river and crossed the next bridge. I noticed this boat was one I hadn't seen before, so I went back to my previous spot and waited. It, too, was a Kirby boat, and it, too, was pushing two barges of anhydrous ammonia. At least that's what the barges said.

This boat was the Archie Wilson. I followed it up the West Virginia side to the next shooting spot. This guy was moving fast. As someone I know would say, he wasn't letting any moss grow on his barges.

I crossed the river to get one more set of pictures. I figured the sun was at an angle to light the boats up -- perhaps too much, given all that white paint -- so I might as well see how they look in this light. And this is what we got.

And that, friends, was my river excitement for the day.

A boat at South Point

I was in South Point, Ohio, yesterday. It's across from the Big Sandy River, and if you look on the left side of this picture, you can see a boat entering the Big Sandy from the Ohio. That's Catlettsburg, Ky., in the background.

The A.B. York is tied up at one of several places in this area where Marathon Petroleum parks its barges. Marathon has a refinery a mile up two up the Big Sandy.

I shot this from my car while on a street that had no other traffic. There was no place to park, and this was about the best angle I was going to get anyway. The boat is the M/V A.B.York of what I think is Florida Transportation.

For various reasons, I'm careful in small towns in Ohio where I don't know anybody. A few years ago, I knew the mayor and a councilman or two in South Point, but they have passed away, so there would be no use namedropping if a village policeman stopped me for anything. While musing on that, I got to thinking about how I once covered South Point and other communities in Ohio for the Huntington WV newspaper. And from that, I realized it was 25 years ago this spring that I last attended a meeting of the South Point Village Council.

South Point at the time was a community of about 4,500 people. It was one of several I covered. My MO was simple: The council met twice a month, on Tuesday evenings. That day or the day before, I would call up the mayor (I still remember his home phone number) or the village administrator (I remember the office number) to check the agenda. If there was something interesting, I attended the meeting. If not, I found something else to do.

The 1980s were interesting in South Point. As with other communities, South Point was under pressure to upgrade its sewage, er, wastewater treatment plant. And its water system needed a new storage tank. Utilities are a topic of interest for readers, but a lot of newspaper reporters would rather cover something else. I wrote so many stories about sewers and sewage treatment in the mid-1980s that I claimed the unofficial title of World Sewer Writing Champion for both 1984 and 1985.

My daily newspaper days included a lot of stories about water systems, too, but young reporters don't find them near as dull as wastewater treatment. Yet I got a lot of good stories, built a decent reputation and learned a lot by throwing myself into covering mundane stuff that led to better things.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Cold morning on the Kanawha

Some pics of the Amherst Madison boat M/V Lucedale that I got while driving to work Friday morning:

Because traffic was light on I-64, I rolled down my window and snapped away blindly in an area where I could get some shots of water vapor coming off the John Amos power plant. This is one of them:

Just my luck, my wife and I came down with the flu or worse just as the cold snap that could bring minus-30 wind chills to the area moves in. So I may skip getting ice photos.

We'll just have to see.

And I just had to label one of the photos as 2013 instead of 2014. At least that's out of my system now.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

M/V Tennessee Hunter

Although the background this time of year is not the best, sometimes you get good light.

This was taken at old Lock and Dam 27 near Proctorville, Ohio.

I like the color scheme on this boat.


I assume the Ohio River will have some ice on the shore or in the channel next week as air temperatures drop to below zero for a couple of days, at least here in the Huntington WV area.

River-created ice sculptures can be pretty, but they mean the air temperatures are a bit cold for my liking. This from the guy who with his then-10-year-old son went up on a bridge and huddled against a concrete barrier for protection against a sub-zero wind chill just to get another photo of the Paula Ruble, which the two of them had chased down the Ohio River on Jan. 3, 2010, I think.

But someone has given me the flu, and I feel not so good, so I don't know if my lungs will be strong enough for that when the temperature drops next week.

So if any of you are down by the river early next week, look for some ice for me.