Ohio's Large Rivers Close to Meeting Water Quality Standards

COLUMBUS, Ohio, February 4, 2008 (ENS) – Ohio’s 23 large rivers have nearly reached Ohio EPA’s goal for 80 percent of large rivers to meet water quality standards by 2010, the agency said in a new report issued Thursday.

The report shows that 78.7 percent of the state’s large rivers now meet clean water goals.

Ohio EPA’s Division of Surface Water is seeking public comments on the list of impaired waterways proposed in the report that may require water quality cleanup plans. The report includes 243 of Ohio’s 331 watersheds.

A priority point system was used to rank the watersheds based on severity of impairment to designate which systems need the most immediate attention.

The public is invited to comment on the report through February 25, 2008.

Although progress also has been documented in smaller streams, more serious work is still needed. The average score for smaller streams that make up Ohio’s 331 watersheds is 54.7, an increase from 46.6 in 2002.

Since 1996, Ohio EPA has assessed 218 of Ohio’s 331 watersheds and developed plans to improve water quality in about 100 of those.

This is the first year that public drinking water supply nitrate and pesticide data were added to the water quality analysis. As a result, six streams in northwest and southwest Ohio were added to the list of impaired waters due to drinking water concerns.

The Ohio River flows through Cincinnati,
Ohio. (Photo by Derek Jensen)

While the treated drinking water delivered to customers is safe, unless otherwise posted by the water system, the Ohio EPA says cleanup is necessary to eliminate potential threats and the extra cost for treatment.

Most of today’s water quality problems are caused by disturbances of habitat in streams and on the land alongside streams and to the natural flow of waterways.

The increase in the amount of hard surfaces that drain quickly – such as rooftops, roadways and parking lots – contributes to additional stream impacts. The increase in residential development on land formerly used for agriculture is also a factor.

These issues cannot be solved by issuing permits or building a better treatment system to clean up pollution, the Ohio EPA says in its report.

“The solution lies in carefully crafting development and other land use changes to minimize water impacts, with plans to restore or maintain natural stream functions and preserve the land’s ability to store and drain water,” the agency says..

Ohio EPA has been addressing these issues by developing partnerships, solving problems collaboratively and educating participants about local water quality concerns and present conditions.

This year’s report includes an overview of water quality conditions in Ohio, including summaries for each region.

Category one waterways are those that meet all criteria, which is the toughest standard to attain, but when a waterway is not in complete attainment, it may still meet many water quality goals.

Category two waterways meet some of the designated uses but there is insufficient data to determine if the remaining indicators have been met. Fourteen waterways fall into these two categories.

Category three waterways are those where there is insufficient data to determine whether any designated uses have been met. Forty-seven of these areas still need to be studied.

Category four waterways are those with impaired or threatened water. This category includes 27 areas that are placed here because they already have a water quality plan in place.

Category five waterways are those that are impaired and require a water quality plan. Ohio EPA moved seven watersheds from Category 3 to 5, after additional study showed the need for water quality plans. There are more areas this year that are impaired with no water quality plan needed, because the cleanup plans for those watersheds are in place.

After reviewing the list, anyone wishing to submit comments about the watersheds included, their rankings or other comments about the report can do so by writing to the following addresses: e-mail trinka.mount@epa.state.oh.us, or;
Ohio EPA, Division of Surface Water
Attention: 303D comments
P.O. Box 1049
Columbus, OH 43216-1049.

All comments must be received by February 25, 2008. After considering comments, Ohio EPA will submit a final document to U.S. EPA for approval by April 1, 2008.

To access the report and more detailed information about any local watershed visit: www.epa.state.oh.us, and click on the words “Integrated Report” in the public comments table.

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