PARTNER EVENT: ORSANCO – Ohio River Discussion Series

Since 1948, ORSANCO and its member states have cooperated to improve water quality in the Ohio River Basin, ensuring the river can be used for drinking, industrial supplies, and recreational purposes; and can support a healthy and diverse aquatic community. ORSANCO operates monitoring programs to check for pollutants and toxins that may interfere with specific uses of the river.

The Ohio River Discussion Series is an opportunity for communities to share their knowledge and passion for the Ohio River. This monthly series of webinars features topics in Clean Water, Ecosystem Restoration, Research, Education, Transportation, Flood Control and Recreation. The Series was created by the Ohio River Recreation Trail in 2020. In 2021, the Series was expanded with additional partners to provide additional content and support. The Partners include the Ohio River Recreational Trail, the Ohio River Basin Alliance, the Foundation for Ohio River Education, ORSANCO, and the National Park Service.

To register for the next Ohio River Discussion: Understanding Microplastics in the Ohio River Basin, 12:00 pm (EDT) April 27, 2021: REGISTER HERE.

ORSANCO Pollution Control Standards Information

National Wildlife Federation & Affiliates Indiana Wildlife Federation, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, Kentucky Waterways Alliance, Prairie Rivers Network, Ohio Conservation Federation, Virginia Conservation Network, Environmental Advocates of New York

ORSANCO Pollution Control Standards Information

The Ohio River is an important resource as a working river for cargo transport, a source of drinking water for five million people, a place for recreation along its 981 mile length and a home for diverse habitat for wildlife and fish. The Ohio River Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) is a regional body with the mandate to manage the Ohio River as a basin system, a unique role that was forward thinking in 1948 and just as necessary today.

ORSANCO provides valuable assistance to member states in stream assessment, monitoring and spill response, and administration of the Pollution Control Standards (PCS). ORSANCO commissioners are now recommending the retraction of crucial PCS, which we see as an abdication of their responsibilities for managing the Ohio River as a basin system rather than
individual stream segments. We believe that the PCS and the role of ORSANCO must remain to ensure that safeguards are in place to protect downstream uses from upstream impacts.

–A majority of commissioners believe that there is redundancy between the states’ water quality standards. However, both the states and ORSANCO have congruent functions in the development and review of water quality standards, but that does not mean there is a duplication of effort. The focus of ORSANCO on the mainstem of the Ohio River allows states to
utilize their resources on the other water bodies within their state jurisdictions. The 981 mile length of the Ohio River requires specialized expertise for the development of standards that do not impact not only waters within a given segment of the river, but also does not jeopardize downstream water resource integrity.

–ORSANCO released comparison tables in February depicting a wide variability in the number and stringency of standards by the states. The variability among the states’ adoption and implementation of the PCS should be a call to action for greater collaboration. The issue that needs to be solved is not the role of ORSANCO, but rather the lack of adoption/implementation by the states of the PCS into state standards.

— We acknowledge that states face challenges in the development, promulgation and implementation of ORSANCO’s PCS. This is a missed opportunity for ORSANCO and states to use collective leverage towards getting the PCS adopted among the states so that the Ohio River is managed as one river basin, not individual stream segments within state boundaries.

— Elimination of the ORSANCO PCS means significant investments will need to be made by the states for the technical development of standards, the procedures for adoption, implementation of those standards and future triennial reviews as required by the Clean Water Act. While some states can adopt the PCS by reference in their state procedures, others cannot. In turn there would be six public agencies conducting the work currently done by one entity.

— Moreover, no comparative analysis has been undertaken to identify any permit limits whereby the state standard was more stringent than the ORSANCO PCS. This is precisely the analysis that ORSANCO should have undertaken to fully realize the potential consequences and impacts that could result should this proposal go forward. The ramifications of the elimination of the PCS need to be fully understood for Commission members to make an informed decision. Otherwise,
they are faced with a decision that lacks a full accounting of the impact to the Ohio River.

— The proposed alternatives for managing the Ohio River Basin create a framework for inconsistent standards for the same water body. This could lead to confusion and economic harm for the regulated community as they seek to comply with different standards. Additionally, such a framework would also establish a lack of equity among the states in its attempts to regulate discharges to the river as economic development efforts will be compromised if differing standards are in place for different states.

Forty six years of water program administration under the Clean Water Act has taught us that we need to manage our water bodies as connected systems within drainage boundaries, not disjointed administration by separate jurisdictional boundaries. Any proposal to resort to pollution control oversight within state borders is a step backward. The Compact compels the member
states to act on behalf of a water body beyond its jurisdictional waters, a unique role that demands action beyond parochial interests.

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 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,


Dr. Indra Frank, Environmental Health Director, Hoosier Environmental Council,


Emily Wood, Executive Director, Indiana Wildlife Federation,


Richard Hill, Chair Hoosier Chapter Sierra Club, 812-801-3221,


Jason Flickner, Director & Waterkeeper, Lower Ohio River Waterkeeper, (502) 276-5957,


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 for more information.  You can also follow HEC on Twitter: @hec_ed or follow us on Facebook:

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!



 [MH1]If you are one of the individuals sending to media locally, PLEASE change this to reflect the town you’re sending the release from.