Ohio River 'Mixing Zone' Ban Delayed
10 October 2013
By Ken Ward Jr.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A multi-state commission that sets pollution
standards for the Ohio River Thursday delayed for two years a ban
on chemical discharge "mixing zones," a move citizen groups said
rewards factories for putting off water quality improvements.
During a meeting in Charleston, members of the Cincinnati-based
Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission voted in favor of
the delay, which puts off the mixing zone ban until October 2015.
Mixing zones are areas downstream from pollution discharges where
water quality limits would not apply, giving discharges the
ability to be diluted by river water before having to meet
About a decade ago, the commission, known as ORSANCO, established
a plan to phase out mixing zones for mercury and other
bio-accumulative chemicals of concern, or BCCs, that build up in
the food chain, increasing their toxicity.
Various industry groups and companies argued in favor of the delay
in the mixing zone ban, saying they still needed more time to come
up with appropriate pollution controls.
Environmental groups said that industry has had long enough, and
urged ORSANCO not to delay. In one letter, the West Virginia
Rivers Coalition noted that companies that needed more time could
ask for specific variances, meaning a more broad delay wasn't
"ORSANCO, states and dischargers have had ten years to prepare for
this deadline and few dischargers have taken action to reduce
their discharge of mercury or determined if they need to take
advantage of the variance procedure which ORSANCO adopted
approximately one year ago," said Angie Rosser, executive director
of the rivers group. "A deadline extension rewards dischargers for
their procrastination and negligence, negates accountability, and
undermines ORSCANO's authority for setting firm deadlines."
Already, at least one facility -- the former PPG Industries plant
in Natrium -- which had received a variance to allow it to
continue to use a mixing zone for its mercury discharges. Axiall
now owns the plant.
The governors of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, New York, Ohio,
Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia appoint members of the
The West Virginia members are Department of Environmental
Protection Secretary Randy Huffman, industry lawyer David
Flannery, and Ron Potesta, a consultant for various industry
Commission members approved the extension of time for the mixing
zone ban through a unanimous voice vote, without any discussion
during their formal meeting Thursday morning at the Charleston
In a draft response to comments, ORSANCO's technical committee
said the delay "would allow the time necessary to determine if ...
treatment is necessary to protect the uses of the Ohio River.
"The commission ... believes that the two-year extension will
provide greater certainty to the regulated community regarding
their compliance status."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.