Six states tackle Ohio River water quality
U.S. Water News Online
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia is working with five other states and the federal government to clean up about 475 miles of the Ohio River that is sometimes unfit for swimming because of sewage.
The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission analyzed more than 14,000 samples taken from Pittsburgh to Cairo, Ill., and found high fecal counts following heavy rains along almost half of the 981-mile river.
The commission is working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to develop a remediation plan required to meet water quality standards of the federal Clean Water Act.
Much of the sewage came from treatment-plant overflows, surface water runoff from farms and slaughterhouses, and tanning, pulp and paper factories, the commission said.
Roughly 2,000 companies and municipalities have permits to discharge treated wastewater into the Ohio River and its 130 tributaries. Problems occur when heavy rains cause water flows to exceed treatment plants' capacity, allowing untreated waste to flow into the river.
Besides providing recreation, the Ohio provides drinking water to nearly 3 million people and is a major transportation route moving nearly 230 million tons of cargo each year, according to ORSANCO. It also is a source for manufacturing and power generation.
Untreated sewage can contain harmful pathogens, including E. coli and salmonella, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and fever, among other ailments.
Tetra Tech Inc. of Fairfax, Va., has been hired to provide consulting services and help develop the plan by 2010.
Public hearings are scheduled in January in all six states, beginning Jan. 12 in Golconda, Ill., and concluding Jan. 22 in Pittsburgh. Other meetings are scheduled Jan. 13 in Evansville, Ind., Jan. 14 in Louisville, Ky., Jan. 15 in Cincinnati and Jan. 21 in Williamstown.
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