Community News

Groups to Govs: Reject Rollback of Clean Water Protections for Ohio River

Groups to Govs: Reject Rollback of Clean Water Protections for Ohio River

Bill Stephens

June 3rd, 2019


Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission to vote June 6 on making pollution controls voluntary—the first step in eliminating clean water protections for river that provides drinking water to more than 5 million people.

ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN (June 3, 2019) — Days before a crucial vote that could scuttle clean water protections for the Ohio River, conservation groups are urging the region’s governors to reject proposed rollbacks and to stand up for the 5 million people who depend on the Ohio River for their drinking water.

The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, the regional body overseeing the health of the 981-mile river, attempted to scuttle regional pollution control standards last year—a move that failed following public outcry over increased pollution in the iconic river. The current attempt to make the adoption of pollution control standards voluntary is the first step towards eliminating pollution protections. 

“Allowing for weaker 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, water programs, for the 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. The Ohio River is not six separate rivers, it is a 981-mile-long river that needs regional standards and a collective approach. The commission 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. We need to care about downstream impacts, not just the waters within a state boundary.”

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 and in its drainage basin, 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.).

“It is time for the governors to step up to the plate and to protect our clean water,” said Angie Rosser, executive director for the West Virginia Rivers Coalition. “We reject completely and whole heartedly this race-to-the-bottom mindset that will only set the region back and undermine our environment and economy. Weakening clean water rules will only make the problems worse and more costly to solve. We all have a role to play to be responsible stewards of the Ohio River, and we believe that collectively we can put forward solutions that benefit everyone.”

“The decision in front of the ORSANCO Commissioners boils down to whether they think every person in the Ohio River Valley deserves the right to clean, safe water,” said Heather Davis, director of conservation partnerships for the National Wildlife Federation. “We believe that they do. And we believe that there is only one responsible course of action for the commissioners and their governors to take—and that is to uphold clean water standards for all of the people who call the Ohio River Valley home.”

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