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Groups Oppose Weakening Clean Water Protections for Ohio River

Conservation groups urge commission to instead boost efforts to help states confront serious threats such as sewage contamination, runoff pollution and toxic contamination.

Ann Arbor, MI —The National Wildlife Federation and its state affiliates are opposing attempts to weaken clean water protections for the Ohio River, which supplies drinking water to more than 5 million people, as well as a home for fish and wildlife. In comments submitted today to the regional body overseeing the health of the 981-mile long river, the groups urged the commission to maintain regional pollution-reduction goals to confront serious threats to the river, communities, and fish and wildlife.

“Weakening clean water protections for the Ohio River and the five million who depend on it for their drinking water is a terrible idea,” said Gail Hesse, director, Great Lakes water program, National Wildlife Federation. “The river and its communities continue to face serious threats from sewage contamination, farm runoff, and toxic pollution. Now is not the time to cut back on regional standards for the river. We need more – not less – protection for clean water. Instead of scaling back the rules for polluters, the region needs to come together to support solutions to help each state meet clean water goals to protect the health of the river, people, and fish and wildlife.”

The regional commission, the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitary Commission, is slated to vote on the anti-clean water proposal at its meeting June 4-6 in Covington, Ky. Voting commissioners are appointed by the governors in states bordering the river, including Govs. J. B. Pritzker (Ill.), Eric Holcomb (Ind.), Matt Bevin (Ky.), Andrew Cuomo (N.Y.), Mike DeWine (Ohio), Tom Wolf (Pa.), Ralph Northam (Va.), and Jim Justice (W.Va.).

The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission attempted to scuttle regional pollution control standards last year—a move that failed following public outcry over increased pollution in the iconic river. The recent attempt to make the adoption of pollution control standards voluntary is the first step towards eliminating pollution protections.

“Regionally adopted standards and cooperation remains the most effective, efficient and fair way to prevent pollution into the Ohio River,” wrote the groups. “Working together, states have been able to limit pollution into the river to protect people and wildlife. We believe that consistency and shared responsibility for downstream impacts remain paramount.”

Conservation groups on the comment letter include the National Wildlife Federation, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, Environmental Advocates of New York, Indiana Wildlife Federation, Kentucky Waterways Alliance, Ohio Conservation Federation, Prairie Rivers Network (Ill.), Virginia Conservation Network, and West Virginia Rivers Coalition.

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