July 27, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Environmental Groups Deliver Petitions to ORSANCO Calling for them to Uphold Mercury Anti-Dumping Standards for Ohio River
Technical committee meets today to decide recommendations
Cincinnati, OHIO – A coalition of environmental groups will deliver close to 2,000 petitions today to a subcommittee of a multi-state commission urging members to recommend following through with new standards that forbid companies from dumping high levels of toxic mercury into the Ohio River. Mercury is a known neurotoxin that causes brain and nerve damage to children and developing fetuses.
Twelve years ago, the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, known as ORSANCO, banned companies located along the Ohio River from releasing large amounts of mercury into the water through the use of mercury dilution zones. The ban on these “mixing zones” is scheduled to go into effect in October in order to improve the safety of fish consumption caught in the river and overall protection of public health. Dozens of coal plants and factories in Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and elsewhere haven’t yet complied with this long-planned ban and many are now asking the commission to create exceptions to that ban or eliminate it completely. ORSANCO, which oversees water pollution and abatement standards on the Ohio River, has said it’s considering their request.
Environmental groups have been collecting signed petitions urging ORSANCO to stick to its original ban set in place more than a decade ago – and already delayed by 2 years – rather than give in to pressure from businesses that have failed to take even initial steps to comply with mercury mixing zone standards, according to Madeline Fleisher, staff attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Columbus, Ohio. ORSANCO’s technical committee, which is reviewing comments submitted by environmental groups and others during the public comment period last spring, is meeting today in Cincinnati to discuss recommendations it will submit to the commission.
“The Environmental Law & Policy Center and our partners are pressing ORSANCO to do the right thing by ensuring there’s a level playing field requiring concrete steps to reduce the amount of damaging mercury that polluters are dumping into the Ohio River,” said Ms. Fleisher.
The Ohio River is the public water supply for more than 5 million people, and it ranks at the top of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of dirtiest rivers, in part because of high mercury levels. The petitions delivered to ORSANCO today were gathered by ELPC, the Kentucky Water Alliance, the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, the National Wildlife Federation and other environmental group allies. Last May, more than 17,000 petitions from environmental groups were delivered to ORSANCO during its public comment period.
“We want the state and federal appointed officials tasked with improving water quality in the Ohio River to uphold the ban on chemical hot spots, or mixing zones,” said Judy Peterson, executive director of the Kentucky Water Alliance. “We want government officials to put public health before corporate profits.”
“Citizens up and down the Ohio River are saying ‘clean water can’t wait,’” said Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition. “They won’t accept delay or backsliding when it comes to reducing dangerous toxins in their water supply.”
The commission is slated to make its decision by fall and announce its new pollution control standards at its scheduled October 8 meeting. The 27-member commission is charged to conduct a review of its pollution abatement and control standards every three years.