In February, the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission proposed a third revision to their water pollution standards that would allow states more flexibility regarding their specific pollution limits as long as they still protect the river’s designated uses. The commission was formed in 1948 to protect the Ohio River Basin and oversees eight states that border the Ohio River or whose waterways flow into the river.
In January 2018, the commission proposed relinquishing its ability to set water pollution limits. Due to significant public protest, including more than 5,000 online comments, the commission revised its original plan twice more. The February revised proposal is a compromise that retains the commission’s ability to set pollution standards but allows member states to find different ways to meet the standards’ goals. The commission would still oversee individual permits and discharges that could affect the river’s water quality, and states would still need to comply with the federal Clean Water Act.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for years has ranked the Ohio River one of the most polluted rivers in the United States, which impacts the approximately 5 million people who use the river for drinking water. According to the Ohio River commission, industries and businesses dumped 23 million pounds of chemicals into the river in 2013, the majority of which were nitrate compounds commonly found in pesticides. Two-thirds of the 981-mile river are unsafe for swimming due to pollution, and there are strict warnings regarding fish consumption from the river.
The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission is accepting comments on the most recent proposal until April 15 and scheduled two webinars and three public hearings.
Mailed comments should be addressed to Attn: PCS Comments, ORSANCO, 5735 Kellogg Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45230. Emailed comments should be sent to: PCS@orsanco.org
— By Jen Kirby