Friday, June 20, 2014

Report Finds Ohio's Waterways Among Most Polluted In Nation

Report Finds Ohio's Waterways Among Most Polluted In Nation, Urges Action To Reduce Toxic Dumping
Multiple Ohio waterways are counted among the most toxic in the nation, an Environment Ohio Research and Policy Center study released Thursday reported.  Based on toxic release data compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency, the report details how industrial pollution negatively affects waterways.  Industrial facilities self-reported dumping more than 206 million pounds of toxic chemicals into American waterways in 2012, according to EPA data, making them responsible or polluting more than 17,000 miles of rivers and about 210,000 acres of lakes, ponds and estuaries nationwide, researchers said.
The Ohio River region is one of the most polluted bodies of water in the country, the findings show. Among the most highly toxic watershed portions are the Muskingum River, with more than 4 million pounds of pollution being dumped into it in 2012 and the Laughery River, with more than 3 million pounds of toxic materials being dumped into it in 2012.

The 71-page report, authored by Jeff Inglis and Tony Dutzik with the Frontier Group and John Rumpler with Environment America Research & Policy Center, urges the restoration of Clean Water Act protections and a strengthening of enforcement of its provisions.  The authors suggest that the Obama Administration clarify the act to include headwater streams, intermittent waterways and isolated wetlands, while state and local leaders should require that the worst chemicals be phased out and safer alternatives to toxic chemicals be used when possible.  Attention should also be given to expanding the understanding of toxic chemicals, the authors said. This could be done by informing the public about storing toxic chemicals and requiring the oil and gas industry to report releases of fracking fluid and drilling waste, which are considered toxic.  "Much remains unknown about toxic releases from fracking facilities, including the degree to which these facilities release toxic substances to surface waters," the authors wrote. "We do know, though, that an independent analysis of data submitted by fracking operators to FracFocus revealed that one-third of all fracking projects reported using at least one cancer-causing chemical."  "Expanding TRI to include oil and gas extraction will enable the public to gain a clearer picture of the environmental and public health impacts of fracking," they continued.

Adding to an ongoing concern among environmental groups that the Kasich administration planned to implement fracking in state parks, Ohio Food & Water Watch on Thursday released documents showing that the possibility was being considered much longer than originally thought. An August 2012 memo released earlier this year revealed plans to drill on two state park lands. The plan was never acted on and Ohio Department of Natural Resources officials said there was no further discussion on it.  However, Ohio Food & Water Watch have obtained memos from September and November 2012 that detail a plan to unveil the idea to the public and review a meeting between administration and ODNR officials, during which fracking in state parks was a focus.

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