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Public Hearing Deadline Nears for Darby Creeks' EPA Designation


Thursday, January 19, 2023   

Disappearing mussel species and threatened water quality from development have prompted advocates to push for increased protections for Ohio's Big and Little Darby Creeks.

The Environmental Protection Agency's Outstanding National Resource Waters classification is the highest level of protection under the Clean Water Act for waterways with exceptional recreational or ecological significance.

Chris Tavenor, associate general counsel with the Ohio Environmental Council, said the deadline to submit public comments on the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency's review of the Darby Creeks is January 31.

"Ohio currently has no rivers, lakes or streams that received this level of protection," said Tavenor. "Essentially, the designation would significantly limit all future new point source pollution into the streams."

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Forty-one species of freshwater mussels live in Darby Creek waters - eight of which are on Ohio's endangered list, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.

The Pew Charitable Trusts says the federal government has been slow to use the special designation, despite mounting evidence of worsening pollution in the nation's freshwaters.

Environmental groups recently appealed the approval of a new wastewater permit that would double the amount of polluting discharge the Plain City water treatment plant is allowed to release into Big Darby Creek.

Tavenor said the "outstanding" designation would likely block any future discharge permits.

"It wouldn't change how things have been permitted in the past," said Tavenor, "but it would limit and change how any future permits would go on and make it very, very difficult for any new point sources to be created."

According to an Environmental Integrity Project Report published last year, 51% of assessed river and stream miles across the nation - around 700,000 miles of waterways - are polluted.

This story was produced in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded in part by the George Gund Foundation.

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