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Ohio River Pollution Rules Watered Down

The Ohio River watershed contains most of five states and parts of eight others. (USGS/Karl Musser/Wikipedia)
The Ohio River watershed contains most of five states and parts of eight others. (USGS/Karl Musser/Wikipedia)
February 15, 2019

Charleston, WV - A multi-state group has loosened pollution-control limits on the Ohio River, although not as much as initially proposed. The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO - pronounced or-SAN-koh) met yesterday. Comments from Mary Agularia (AG-yoo-LAIR-ah), coordinating committee, Ohio Poor People's Campaign.

The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission has loosened pollution-control limits, although not as much as some had feared. ORSANCO will now permit the eight states in its purview to opt out of its water-pollution rules. An initial proposal would have done away with the multi-state limits entirely, and rely only on federal Environmental Protection Agency and individual state regulations. Mary Agularia of Cincinnati is with the Ohio Poor People's Campaign. She says they're concerned about a possible patchwork of weaker standards among states.

"There's several pollutants that the eight states do not monitor that the ORSANCO commission does monitor, and those are some of the worst carcinogens. There's been so much polluting by the industries that we have to have someone to hold them accountable."

With the E-P-A and states setting their own standards, critics argued ORSANCO should focus its efforts on monitoring and spill response. But amid federal efforts to weaken clean-water protections, Agularia says this is no time for ORSANCO to shed its duties. The commission met yesterday in Covington, Kentucky.

The Ohio River is consistently ranked as the most polluted in the country, with an estimated 30-million pounds of toxic chemicals illegally dumped into its waters each year. While several chambers of commerce and manufacturing groups supported dropping the standards, Agularia notes there was business opposition, including from groups like craft brewers.

"There's five million people that rely on their drinking water from the Ohio River. And just imagine if you were in business trying to use that water to sell your beer and you can't, because it's become so polluted. So, this affects everybody."

ORSANCO came into existence nearly 60 years ago. Supporters say since the Ohio River is heavily industrialized and goes from Pittsburgh all the way to Missouri, dealing with its pollution still requires a multi-state organization.

The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission has loosened pollution-control limits, although not as much as some had feared. Dan Heyman has more.

Dan Heyman reporting.

Reach Agularia at 513-739-9724. More info at http://www.orsanco.org/.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV