Weaker Environmental Rules for the Ohio River Could Spell Trouble for Water Quality, Water Reliant Businesses in Southern Indiana

August 13, 2018
Media Contact: Marianne Holland, (317) 981-3210

Ohio River Businesses Concerned, Public Comment Period Ends August 20th

[MH1] Businesses, municipalities, and people living in the Ohio River Valley will have fewer protections against pollution in the Ohio River if a new proposal from the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) takes effect. Its commissioners are proposing to eliminate all ORSANCO’s Pollution Control Standards for the Ohio River. Each of the standards gives the concentration of a chemical that the river can contain and still be healthy for aquatic life and people.

“ORSANCO pollution standards are even more critical for Indiana because we are located at nearly the tail end of the 981-mile Ohio River. Pollution that is dumped into the river upstream comes our way. ORSANCO standards help protect us. If they’re gone it could make it more complicated and expensive to clean drinking water from the Ohio as well as impact our ability to fish, boat, swim, and generally enjoy on the river,” said Jason Flickner, director of the Lower Ohio River Waterkeeper.

Businesses along the Ohio River and others nearby that are river dependent already see serious potential harm to their businesses if the pollution standards are eliminated. Ron Riecken is the owner of Inland Marina in Evansville. He also serves on ORSANCO’s public information advisory committee and has cautioned the commission against eliminating its standards.

“We started building this marina in 1963 and ever since we’ve been a place people come to enjoy the river. We have boat slips, jet ski slips, a restaurant and tiki bar, a marina shop, and a place for boats to gas up. People love coming here to be on the river, the way it is now. The difference in the beauty of the Ohio between 50 years ago and now is unbelievable and ORSANCO has been instrumental in making that happen. To do away with these standards is to do away with what keeps our river clean and would set us back to a time decades ago when no one wanted to be on the river because it was so polluted. People wanting to be out to enjoy a safe, clean Ohio River: That’s an absolute necessity for my business,” said Riecken.

It wouldn’t be just riverside businesses that could be negatively impacted by the loss of the ORSANCO pollution standards. Some businesses, like breweries, use water from the Ohio to make their products. There are also other river reliant businesses nearby like East Side Marine in Evansville, that could struggle.

“Not only from a business standpoint do we need these standards to regulate the river, but our river is also a huge playground for adults, children, and pets,” said Kim Herendeen, co-owner along with her brother Ron, of the boat sales and repair business that was started by their parents in 1960. “We are very lucky to have this wonderful asset right outside our back door. Our river provides great entertainment for many people and it provides many various jobs.”

ORSANCO announced the proposal in June claiming the standards were duplicative with individual state standards required under the Clean Water Act. But that’s not the case.

A report from ORSANCO’s own staff shows more than 50 ORSANCO safeguarding standards that protect water quality that would completely disappear in Indiana alone (nearly 200 for all the Ohio River states) and another 63 that would be weakened. In fact, portions of Indiana’s Clean Water Act Rule simply defer to existing ORSANCO standards that if ended would leave massive gaps in Indiana’s ability to protect water quality in the Ohio River.

When ORSANCO held its first public comment period in February, 797 people and organizations commented in opposition to the elimination of its Pollution Control Standards. The current public comment period ends at midnight, August 20th. ORSANCO commissioners say they will vote on the proposal October 4th.Indiana has three out of the 23 ORSANCO commissioners (listed below), who were appointed by either Governor Pence or Governor Holcomb.

ORSANCO is requiring that public comments be submitted in the body of an email (no attachments) to PCS@orsanco.org. Written comments can be mailed to:


Attn: PCS Comments

5735 Kellogg Avenue

Cincinnati, OH 45230


Additional Facts About ORSANCO Pollution Standards:


  • In EPA records, there are 190 permits for releasing waste into the Ohio River before it reaches the eastern edge of Indiana, including from oil and chemical industries.
  • 30 towns and cities use the Ohio River for drinking water
  • 188 ORSANCO standards cover chemicals that are not covered by state standards in any of the Ohio river states
  • 252 ORSANCO standards are significantly more protective than the corresponding state standards, by 10% or more.
  • In an ORSANCO staff report comparing water quality standards, there are 54 chemicals with ORSANCO standards but no Indiana standard and 63 chemicals with weaker Indiana standards than ORSANCO standards.
  • ORSANCO standards are cited in Indiana’s Administrative Code for water discharge permits at 327 IAC 5-2-10.  Their loss will leave a gap that will require Indiana to spend time and taxpayer money to fix.
  • Indiana’s ORSANCO commissioners are:
    • John Kupke, ORSANCO Commissioner
    • Bruno Pigott, Commissioner, Indiana Department of Environmental Management
    • Joseph H. Harrison, Jr., Massey Law Offices, LLC


Additional Contacts


John Blair, ValleyWatch, Blair@valleywatch.net


Dr. Indra Frank, Environmental Health Director, Hoosier Environmental Council, ifrank@hecweb.org


Emily Wood, Executive Director, Indiana Wildlife Federation, ewood@indianawildlife.org


Richard Hill, Chair Hoosier Chapter Sierra Club, 812-801-3221, rhill@cinergymetro.net


Jason Flickner, Director & Waterkeeper, Lower Ohio River Waterkeeper, (502) 276-5957, jason@ohioriverwaterkeeper.org


About Hoosier Environmental Council:

Founded thirty-five years ago, the Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC) is the largest statewide environmental policy organization in Indiana.  HEC aims to advance solutions that are good for the environment and good for the economy.  Visit http://hecweb.org for more information.  You can also follow HEC on Twitter: @hec_ed or follow us on Facebook: http://facebook.com/hecweb.

About Valley Watch:

Valley Watch was formed in 1981 to protect the public health and environment of the lower Ohio River Valley.
About Lower Ohio River Waterkeeper:

The Lower Ohio River Waterkeeper is a newly founded Waterkeeper Alliance member organization operating in the Ohio River watersheds of Indiana and Kentucky between the Kentucky and Wabash rivers. Our mission is to CONNECT COMMUNITIES TO PROTECT, RESTORE, and ENJOY the OHIO RIVER and its watersheds!



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