Ohio River Advocates to Governors: Reject Roll-Back of Clean Water Protections

In the lead-up to an October 4 vote that could overturn 70 years of regional collaboration to reduce pollution in the Ohio River, advocates are urging Govs. Bruce Rauner (Ill.), Eric Holcomb (Ind.), Matt Bevin (Ky.), Andrew Cuomo (N.Y.), John Kasich (Ohio), Tom Wolf (Pa.), Ralph Northam (Va.), and Jim Justice (W. Va.), to reject weakening clean water protections to the river, which is the source of drinking water for more than 5 million people.

Representatives from an eight-state regional body that oversees the health of the river – called the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission – are slated to vote October 4 in Lansing, W. Va., whether to continue to collaboratively set pollution control standards via an arrangement that has been in place since 1948, or to allow each state to individually set standards. Environmental groups are urging the states to continue to work together to address serious threats to the river such as sewage contamination, toxic pollution, and harmful algal blooms.

The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission meeting, October 2-4, will take place at Adventures on the Gorge, 219 Chestnutburg Rd., Lansing, WV 25862. Read the agenda and materials.

Environmental groups said:

“We urge the governors to stand up for the 5 million people who depend on the Ohio River for their drinking water, public health, jobs and way of life, and reject attempts to weaken pollution protections for the river. Serious problems such as sewage contamination, toxic pollution and harmful algal blooms continue to threaten the Ohio River, which is why we need more—not fewer—protections.

“Regional cooperation remains the best way for states to reduce pollution into the Ohio River and to protect the health of communities, because pollution that flows into the river upstream impacts communities downstream. We encourage the governors to take a step back and to refrain from dismantling the most effective, efficient and fair way to prevent pollution into the Ohio River. Working together, we have solutions to protect the Ohio River, so that it can be enjoyed for people now and for generations to come.”

Environmental groups are opposed to disbanding regional pollution standards because it will open the door for more pollution into the river, as well as set the stage for inconsistent pollution-control standards whereby two states along the same stretch of river – Ohio and Kentucky, for example – could set different pollution standards. Further, groups argue, the regional body known as ORSANCO has not done an analysis on the costs and benefits. Lastly, the move would likely create redundancy, as multiple states would have to do the work of one regional body.

For more information contact:

National Wildlife Federation: Jordan Lubetkin, lubetkin@nwf.org, (734) 904-1589

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