ORSANCO hearing in Erlanger

The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) held the last of three hearings on Monday, April 8, to gather public input on its latest proposal to change its mandate to monitor and enforce clean water standards on the river. The previous two had been in Pittsburgh, PA on April 1st, and Evansville, IN on April 4th.

Monitoring would continue under the new proposal, but states could decide whether or not to adopt or enforce the standards. This opened a new front in the fight to protect water in the Ohio River that provides drinking water for more than five million people. Over 75 people gathered at the meeting in Erlanger to voice opposition to the organization’s proposal. KFTC members attended the public hearing along with a broad coalition of individuals, environmental, social justice, religious, public health and civic groups.

Public comment on the proposal will be taken until the end of day on April 15. (See below for how you can add your voice to this important issue.)

KFTC worked with our allies to help defeat a proposal last year by ORSANCO that would end many of its pollution control standards completely, turning over responsibility for setting pollution levels in the Ohio River to individual states and the federal EPA. That proposal, which became known as “option 2,” was withdrawn by commissioners at the ORSANCO annual meeting in February after public outcry and more than 6,000 pages of testimony against it.

Those who mobilized to defeat option 2 had only a short time to breathe before the commission was back with the new proposal, this time to make the standards “discretionary.” The commissioners cited “redundancy” in their call, but many present at the hearing April 8 pointed out that ORSANCO monitors more than 180 toxins and pollutants not covered by state or EPA regulations. More regulations, not less, are needed at a time when the EPA and state agencies are being deregulated, they said. The Sierra Club and others pointed to the additional need for numeric standards to regulate nutrient pollutants, such as nitrogen and phosphorus. 

The eight states along the Ohio River must work in coalition to ensure the health of all who live along its banks, said many present. If one or two states ignore pollution controls, it can cause harm to all who live down river. Of particular concern were proposed fracking water holding facilities and plants designed to use fracking byproducts to manufacture plastics in and around the river in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. According to Scientific American, tiny particles of plastic, known as microplastics, are showing up in fish and even in beer that uses water from polluted sources.

April 15 is the deadline for comments on ORSANCO’s latest proposal. Email pcs@orsanco.org to urge the commissioners to continue their mission to protect our water and our communities along Ohio River.

On June 6, ORSANCO may make a decision at the public portion of its quarterly meeting in Covington. The meeting, held at the Radisson Hotel Riverfront, 668 W. 5th Street. There is space before and after the meeting for public comment.

ORSANCO was established in 1948 to protect against pollution in the river and includes appointed representatives from eight states as well as the federal government.

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