Coal

Miller, Fleisher: Keep mercury out of the Ohio River

The view of the Ohio River from Eden Park on Sept. 17. Michael C. Miller and Madeline Fleisher write to say the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission should hold the line on industrial mercury dumps into the Ohio River.(Photo: The Enquirer/Cara Owsley)

The view of the Ohio River from Eden Park on Sept. 17

CINCINNATI — “…another far less visible pollutant – mercury – has been quietly accumulating in the Ohio River for years. Mercury concentrations in the water regularly exceed permissible levels. And government data from 2010 shows that this toxic pollution is building up in fish, with over 40 percent of samples from an important fish species in the Ohio River, hybrid striped bass, containing mercury at dangerous levels. The consumption of such contaminated fish can cause significant damage to the developing nervous systems of young children and unborn babies.

As a scientist and an environmental attorney, we are sounding the alarm for a group of appointed officials who can decide this week in favor of a ban to curb the continued escalation of mercury that industries are permitted to dump into the Ohio.

The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (known as ORSANCO), which oversees pollution standards on the river, may unravel a ban on mercury dilution or “mixing” zones, which allow industries to release larger amounts of mercury into the Ohio River than would otherwise be permitted. Coal plants and factories do that by diluting their discharges without ever reducing the amount of mercury going into the river, and building up in fish, over time.”

— Michael C. Miller and Madeline Fleisher, guest column, Cincinnati Enquirer

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