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Rafters Report Chemical on New River, WVDEP Searching Area

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A Department of Environmental Protection inspector is searching for an oily substance reported on the New River.

Update at 3:51 p.m. ET June 6, 2014 DEP determines the substance was algae

"The brown substance spotted on both the New and Kanawha rivers (it made its way downstream), we took samples and looked at them under a microscope and determined it was algae," Spokesperson Kelley Gillenwater said. "Algae blooms are common this time of year."

Update at 5:27 p.m. ET. Substance appears to be "naturally occurring substance"

From Kelley Gillenwater, with the WV DEP

"The DEP inspector looking into this has located the substance and as a precaution will continue traveling up and down the river to look for any potential spill sources. He's also been giving out his business card to everyone he's spoken to and has asked residents to contact him if they see more of this material. However, at this time, based on his observations and his conversations with residents and boaters, there is nothing to indicate this is anything other than a naturally occurring substance. The agency will continue to investigate, though, just in case it's something else."

West Virginia Public Broadcasting received reports Friday from raft guides in the area that they had seen the substance Thursday, describing it as an oily or chemical like and "flowing in big patches from Canard Pool on down into Pinball rapid."  One guide even said it "stung his eyes" and "looked like the Exxon Valdez spill."

In an email Friday, DEP spokeswoman Kelly Gillenwater said an inspector is traveling up and down the river trying to locate the substance. Gillenwater said he hasn't found it yet,  but he has talked to rafters who described it to him.

Gillenwater said as more information becomes available it will be released to the public.


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