By Sierra Club, Ohio Chapter
Historically, the water quality experts at the Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commission have created rules and standards for a number of pollutants discharged into the river. These include limits on sewage and pollutants such as benzene and mercury to protect aquatic life and human health.
When ORSANCO proposed eliminating these standards in 2018 they received well over 5,000 public comments on the proposal to do so, a majority of which opposed eliminating the standards. The vote on this proposal was delayed at the October 2018 meeting, and a vote was set to be made at the meeting taking place February 14th. At the February meeting in Covington, KY, commissioners heard an hour of testimony before moving into the meeting from organizations spanning multiple states, as well as concerned citizens. This testimony overwhelmingly called for ORSANCO to act in the best interest of the public and the Ohio River through continuation of enforcement of the pollution control standards it has upheld since 1948.
Now, ORSANCO has changed course; from original plans of removing pollution control standards along the Ohio River, to keeping them in place but making state adherence to the standards voluntary. The language revision states that the standards were developed for “use or consideration by signatory States.” This new proposal will move straight to a public comment period which will start near March 1st. The commissioners are debating the number of public hearings they will have. Advocates attending the meeting requested a minimum of three to be located along the river at different locations so that all residents living along the river will be able to contribute in person.
There are thirty three drinking water intakes along the Ohio River that distribute water to five million people living in the Ohio River Valley. An issue this large, with this many ramifications, should not be made hastily or without proper involvement. Not only should public hearings be held, but they should be numerous and varied enough to be accessible by all those affected by a more polluted Ohio River.
If you are interested in this issue, and believe that the Ohio River needs pollution control standards, please consider contacting Ohio ORSANCO Technical Committee member Erin Sherer via phone or email. Below are sample scripts for both options.
Hello, my name is _____NAME_____, I am calling from ____CITY____ to request that as Ohio’s representative on the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission pollution Control technical committee you request at least three public hearings be conducted in different locations along the river. All residents who live along the river deserve an opportunity to ask questions and provide comments in person about the new water pollution control standards proposal.
Email: [email protected]
Dear Erin Sherer,
I am writing to request that as the Ohio’s representative on the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission Technical Committee you request at least three public hearings be conducted in different locations along the river on the new pollution control standards draft proposal. The Ohio River is 981 miles long, and one public hearing is insufficient to allow the millions of residents along the river opportunity to ask questions and provide comments.
I appreciate your time,