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.