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Ohio Waterways Ranked 10th in the Nation for Toxic Chemicals

PHOTO: The Muskingum River watershed is highlighted in a new report from Environment Ohio on the shocking level of toxic pollution in Ohio's river and waterways. Photo credit: Tim Kiser / Creative Commons.
PHOTO: The Muskingum River watershed is highlighted in a new report from Environment Ohio on the shocking level of toxic pollution in Ohio's river and waterways. Photo credit: Tim Kiser / Creative Commons.
June 24, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio - According to a new report released by Environment Ohio, the Buckeye State's rivers, streams and lakes are teeming with toxic chemicals.

The "Wasting Our Waterways" report found over seven million pounds of toxic chemicals were dumped into the state's waterways in 2012, making Ohio the 10th worst in the country. Ragan Davis, a field associate with Environment Ohio, says analyzing additional numbers from around the country reveals Ohio also has one of the nation's top five polluted rivers.

"Polluters dumped approximately 4.4 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the Muskingum River watershed," says Davis, "making this particular watershed the fourth most polluted in the nation."

Davis adds industrial facilities in the Middle Ohio River and Laughery Creek region discharged 21,000 pounds of chemicals linked to cancer in that watershed, making it the 11th highest amount nationally. The study used data reported by polluting facilities to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Toxics Release Inventory.

Davis says Ohio waterways, at a bare minimum, must be clean for swimming, drinking, and supporting wildlife, and that more action is needed to curb toxic pollution. She says the first step is to restore Clean Water Act protections to all waterways.

"Smaller streams and waterways that feed these larger rivers are not guaranteed protection," says Davis. "So we can't really say we're protecting these larger waterways that end up being the drinking water for five million Ohioans if we're not protecting the small streams that feed them."

The EPA is considering a new rule to restore those protections, which opponents argue would hurt the economy, cost jobs and restrict landowners' rights. The public comment period on the proposed rule runs through the middle of October.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH