Pollution Control Standards for Wastewater Into Ohio River Approved

The State Journal
8 October 2015

The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission approved revisions to the Pollution Control Standards for industrial and municipal wastewater discharges into the Ohio River. 

Among the revisions approved Oct. 8 were changes to existing ORSANCO regulations on mixing zones for bioaccumulative chemicals of concern (BCCs).

"The Commission remains committed to the elimination of all mixing zones for bioaccumulative chemicals of concern," said Commission Executive Director Richard Harrison.  "Strengthening the demonstration by the discharger of the actions that they have and will take to reduce and eliminate the use of mixing zones, will lower mercury loading into the Ohio River in a more robust and transparent way than under the former standard, which allowed variances on the basis of a less rigorous test."

Since October 16, 2003, new dischargers of any of 22 listed bioaccumulative chemicals of concern (including mercury) into the mainstem of the Ohio River have been ineligible for a "mixing zone" in which the wastewater discharge is allowed to mix with river water before meeting instream water quality standards.  This prohibition, which requires that the water quality standard for mercury be met at the "end-of-pipe," remains in place for new dischargers after 2003.

Environmental groups worry about continued health risks for residents who benefit from the fish supply in the Ohio River and those who recreate there as well. 

“ORSANCO’s decision flies in the face of Kentuckians who support the ban on toxic mercury discharges and the enforcement of water quality protections, and it flies in the face of science,” said Tim Joice, Water Policy Director at the Kentucky Waterways Alliance. “We are extremely disappointed for all the fishermen and families that eat fish from the river daily, and disappointed for the public at large. KWA will continue to fight for clean water for the health of our communities and citizens.”

For those facilities discharging wastewater into the Ohio River prior to 2003, ORSANCO's former standards imposed a ban on mixing zones after October 16, 2015, but allowed ORSANCO to grant a variance allowing continued mixing zones after that date for such discharges, on a case-by-case basis. To date, ORSANCO has approved two such variances, both in the state of West Virginia.