Setting a New Standard for the Ohio River:
It's Your Backyard!
Since 2006, WVRC has been working to improve the water standards of the Ohio River. We have made substantial progress in some areas. In 2006 we managed to keep the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, ORSANCO, from approving wet weather standards that would have allowed increased amounts of sewage-related bacteria into the water.
But, its not just sewage that lingers in the waters of the mighty Ohio River. PPG Industries chlorine plant, located along the river near Natrium, W.Va., is the largest single source of mercury pollution in the state. We have long fought this pollution and continue to do so today.
However, ORSANCO, an eight-state commission that recommends water quality standards for the entire 981-mile length of the Ohio River, has recently introduced a proposal that would allow more mercury pollution in the Ohio.
Stop Mercury Rising in the Ohio River!
Proposed changes to ORSANCO's Pollution Control Standards could allow more mercury to be directly discharged into the Ohio River.
Over 30 million pounds of toxic pollution is dumped in the Ohio River every year - more than any other river in the United States. This pollution includes over 96,000 pounds of cancer causing toxins such as arsenic and chromium, and over 67,000 pounds of developmental and reproductive toxins such as PCBs, lead, mercury, and dioxin. Tests conducted by the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) reveal over 800 miles of the Ohio River is currently polluted for mercury, and the problem is only getting worse every year.
Voice your opposition click here to Submit a letter to ORSANCO
Mercury Threatens Public Health
Mercury is a dangerous “persistent bio-accumulative reproductive and neurological” toxin, meaning it remains poisonous for a long time. The toxin builds up in big fish as they eat many smaller fish, and affects the human brain, spinal cord, kidneys, liver, immune system, and pituitary gland. People are exposed to mercury through air emissions and by eating fish and seafood containing mercury from polluted waters; and poisoned as the mercury builds up over time in the body. Chronic mercury exposure is associated with elevated risks for autism, mental impairment, and Alzheimer's disease. At greatest risk are pregnant women, women of childbearing age, and children who eat fish. Exposure to mercury causes brain and nervous system damage in unborn babies, infants, and children - impairing cognitive thinking, memory, attention, language, motor and visual skill development. A recent UCLA analysis of Center for Disease Control data found inorganic mercury in the blood samples of 30% of childbearing age women.
Every state bordering the Ohio River has issued fish consumption advisories to inform the public about the possible risks of eating some fish due to elevated levels of mercury and other toxins. Despite these warnings, 13 million pounds of Ohio River fish are consumed every year according to a recent ORSANCO survey.
Polluters Want to Dump More Mercury in the Ohio
Now, coal power plants and other polluters want to continue dumping mercury into the Ohio River at levels greater than deemed safe. ORSANCO's existing Pollution Control Standards eliminate “mixing zones” for mercury and other toxins on October 16, 2013. A mixing zone is an area where toxic pollution is allowed to be dumped in quantities greater than health standards and diluted to meet the legal limits for water quality. ORSANCO is currently considering a proposal to weaken their Standards to allow polluters to request a waiver that would give them the right to continue to dump mercury and other toxins in mixing zones in the Ohio River in quantities greater than EPA deems safe for at least five years beyond the 2013 moratorium.
ORSANCO's proposal threatens public health by weakening protections for toxic pollution and could allow more mercury and other toxins to enter the Ohio River for a longer period of time. The public who swim, boat, and fish on the Ohio River deserve as much protection from mercury and other toxic pollution as provided to the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay. Demand that ORSANCO protect public health and the environment by maintaining the rules that will restrict mercury pollution in the Ohio River!
Stop Mercury Rising in the Ohio! Click here to submit comments asking ORSANCO to vote against the rules that would allow more mercury and other toxic pollutants into the Ohio River.
Pollution coming from numerous coal-fired power plants, steel mills, chemical manufacturers, and other industries are also impacting the river.
Why does the Ohio River matter to you?
The Ohio River forms the western border of West Virginia. Most of the Ohio River watershed is drained by tributaries; less than five percent of the watershed
drains directly into the main stem. In West Virginia, for example, 85 percent of counties have tributaries that flow toward the Ohio River.
Thus, everything that happens in West Virginia watersfrom Greenbrier to Guyandotte and Wheeling Creek to Winding Gulfaffects water quality in the Ohio River.
- Harmful rules created on the Ohio River set precedent for similar rules in other parts of West Virginia.
- The Ohio River watershed in West Virginia encompasses a majority of the
states coalfield regions, areas severely impacted by acid mine drainage, mountaintop removal, and other pollution.
- The Monongahela River originates in West Virginias Monongahela National Forest and flows toward Pittsburgh, Pa., where it joins the Allegheny River to form the Ohio River.
- The Ohio River is a source of drinking water for more than three million people, including West Virginians.
- More than 25 million people, almost 10 percent of the U.S. population, live in
the Ohio River watershed.
- Approximately 150 species of fish have been collected from the Ohio River.
- There are 20 dams and 49 power generating facilities on the Ohio River.
- Over 230 million tons of cargo is transported on the Ohio River each year. Coal and other energy products make up approximately 70 percent of the commerce traveling by barge.
- Fish consumption advisories exist for all species of fish in the Ohio River
(and all other West Virginia rivers) due to mercury pollution.
- PPG Industries, located near Natrium, W.Va., is West Virginias largest single source of mercury pollution, including both air and water emissions.
- Airborne pollution coming from Ohio River Valley power plants and other industries deposits mercury and other harmful contaminants throughout Mid-Atlantic and New England states.
- Acid rain, caused by coal-fired power plants located throughout the Ohio River watershed, is responsible for killing trout streams throughout West Virginia (including the Potomac watershed) and Northeast.
- The Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge is located largely within West Virginia and is home to hundreds of species, including endangered mussels. It is also a critical pathway for thousands of migratory birds each year.
What can you do?
Legislators and decision-makers need to start hearing from people telling them that the Ohio River matters! There are lots of ways you can let them hear your voice, including starting a watershed group, writing letters, and organizing cleanups.
If you are interested in forming a watershed group along the Ohio River or its tributaries, or interested in involving your group in the effort to draw attention toward Ohio River pollution problems, please contact us. Is your watershed in a Ohio River Tributary? We need your help!
Learn More About The Ohio River:
Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge http://www.fws.gov/northeast/ohioriverislands/
PPG Industries Mercury Pollution