In late 1993 Ohio EPA asked us to be part of an Antidegradation External Advisory Work Group to refine a rule to administer Section 6111.12 of the Ohio Revised Code. We disagreed with the work product, organized and led a nine-group coalition to claim in court that it violated the Clean Water Act, and brought about a decision requiring water pollution permits to have public hearings and antidegradation reviews for any perceptible change in water quality. We completed work in 2000 as members of the Ohio EPA Antidegradation External Advisory Group.
Because of OEPA's continued failure to enforce water pollution laws and Ohio's passage of a pollution secrecy law, we joined three other environmental groups in a petition process to have USEPA revoke Ohio's authority to administer the Clean Water Act and take over the program. We participated in a citizen hearing on the failure of Ohio EPA to enforce the law and the difficulty citizens have getting information about pollution. We continued to research Ohio's failure to enforce the Clean Water Act, provided additional information to USEPA, met with numerous USEPA staff and Regional Administrator twice in Chicago, amended the petition repeatedly and provided information to the media.
As a direct result of our work and that of our partners in the petition process, when Ohio's former EPA director was nominated to head USEPA's environmental enforcement, that nomination was defeated. The nomination process and the immense pressure we were able to build by enlisting 22 other environmental groups and national media attention, and senatorial questions, forced USEPA to release the petition report. The report threatens withdrawal of Ohio's programs unless substantial changes are made. Significant improvements must be made to Ohio's enforcement of the Clean Water Act because of the petition.
We have persistently challenged OEPA pollution permitting because of its failure to consider the incremental costs of polluting receiving waters. These costs include reduced values of fishing, property, tourism, public image, quality of life, recreation etc. and possible increased costs of water treatment. In 1998, OEPA in response hired Ohio State University Resource Economists to investigate improved means for determining the social and economic justification for granting or denying permits. We believe we are first in the nation in attempting, in the public interest, to bring benefit/cost into this decision making. See link : Water Quality Economics.
Hydraulic Fracturing: What Is It? Why Should Ohioans Care?
Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," is a technique used to increase the output from oil and natural gas wells. Large quantities of water mixed with chemicals and sand are injected into well bores at high pressure, causing the target strata to fracture. This releases the oil and gas trapped in the rock or shale.
The injection chemicals used may include carcinogens, such as benzene, formaldehyde, toulene and others. Chemicals left in the ground can migrate through the fractures or the well bore to aquifers and drinking water wells. Natural gas (methane) can also migrate through the fissures and accumulate in enclosed spaces like basements. In December of 2007, a house in Bainbridge, Ohio- near Cleveland- exploded due to this process.
Waste fluid pumped back to the surface will pick up dissolved minerals and salts, which are additional hazards to local surface waters and also industrial equipment. Sewage treatment plants are not equipped to handle these contaminants, so the discharge can be unsafe.
In 2005, hydraulic fracturing was made exempt from the Safe Water Drinking Act, a federal law which regulates underground injection of hazardous waste. The use of this method has increased dramatically since then. Now, approximately 9 out of 10 natural gas wells use fracking technology.
A boom in drilling and permitting has not been accompanied by a proportionate increase in regulatory oversight and inspections, which are mainly state responsibilities. State budget deficits are exacerbating the problem. Potential for environmental damage has been increasing. Illnesses caused by drinking contaminated water have been reported in areas next to active fracturing.
"The Fracking Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act" (FRAC Act)
Legislation repealing the exemption granted to the industry in 2005 has been introduced in Congress. This would also require drillers to disclose the chemicals used in the fracturing process, which they are not required to do at present, which makes it more difficult to document cases of contamination and treat illnesses. "Our legislation says everyone deserves to have safe drinking water by ensuring that hydraulic fracturing is subject to the protections afforded by the Safe Drinking Water Act. The bill also lifts the veil of secrecy currently shrouding this industrial practice." -U.S. Representative Maurice Hinchey, June 2009.
As the nation seeks to supplement its dwindling energy supplies, the political and economic pressure to use potentially damaging drilling techniques will increase. It is up to citizens to pressure their state and federal representatives to pass and enforce laws requiring that the safest, and not merely the cheapest, drilling methods are utilized to ensure the integrity of our drinking water supply. The FRAC Act (H.R. 2766 and S.B. 1215) is still in committee.
Ohio has one of the largest gravel mining economies in the nation. Because these operations are often located in or along waterways and can desecrate riparian corridor, they poise a threat to the health and integrity of the state's rivers and streams.
As a citizen, you are not without tools in protecting your waterway from unlawful mining. Operations are subject to permitting and regulation, and Rivers Unlimited will work with you to make sure that you have the knowledge and resources to prevent unlawful mining from degrading the river in your community. Mining can also be effectively controlled by local zoning ordininances that require operations to stay an allotted distance from a stream, which ensures that the stream's corridor is adequately protected to prevent siltation, erosion and run-off pollution. However, these ordinances are currently under threat by state legislation (SB 191 and HB 400), written by the mining lobby, that take away a community's right pass such ordinances, undermining that communty's ability to protects its waterways. Visit our "New and Events" section to find out how you can act now!
The mining laws of Ohio can be somewhat complicated, as the regulation, permitting and enforcement involve three different agencies- the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers. However, we hope that the following series of articles, which were originally published in our journal, Rivers Quarterly, will help citizens and watershed groups obtain a clearer understanding of the permitting and regulatory process, in order that mining operations are held accountable.
To read detailed infromation about the bureaucracy and regulations of gravel mining, cclick here!
1. Dams slow the flow of streams as they approach the dam itself,thus reducing dissolved oxygen. Rapid flow oxygenates water.
2. Dams cause impounded waters to be permanent floods, destabilizing river banks formerly subjected only to occasional high waters for short periods, therefore causing serious and continuing erosion. The Ohio River high dam series is a painful example. Impoundments increase siltation, our number one pollutant.
3. Dams interrupt normal, seasonal flows of rivers, changing flows to suit project purposes - recreation, pollution dilution, hydropower, water supply, flood damage limitation, optimum barge traffic water levels (Ohio River). Both downstream and upstream of dams, flows can no longer serve certain species formerly adapted to natural flow.
4. Dam releases, depending on how they are controlled, can be anoxic, too cold and can cause thermal shock to organisms. These release velocities (because of the "head" or pressure of the weight of water above the downstream, tailwaters) can cause heavy erosion, generating more silt.
5. Dams collect silt. This silt therefore cannot replenish the silt constantly being removed from the streambed by downstream flow. There is no bed load just below a dam. So the streambed erodes, increasing silt. If there is no equilibrium between bedload entering a stretch of river and leaving it, either a river will cut into its streambed and deepen and/or widen it or it will fill up with silt and cut new channels through and around the silt islands.
Again, instability, damage to aquatic organism habitat, erosion, silt.
6. Fish and mollusks cannot go upstream because of dams. Dams limit fisheries, even with fish ladders, which only certain fish will attempt.
7. Low flow while a dam stores up water: stream may dry up (downstream); heat up in the sun (reduces dissolved oxygen), permit algal accumulations.
8. Low flow downstream of a dam prevents dilution of fertilizer and pesticide runoff from fields and animal waste from feed lots and farms, hence increases concentration of toxics and nutrients which can damage aquatic organisms and limit their populations.
9. Dams, or rather impoundments, have limited lives. At some point they have lost significant storage capacity - they fill up with silt. They have to be dredged or drained and excavated, therefore
- destroying habitat of fish and wildlife
- muddying the waters in the impoundment and downstream for an indefinite period
- releasing toxics that may have collected and concentrated just above the dam, with potentially drastic effects on instream life and water quality
10. Dams may have to be removed because their condition - age or damage - may threaten downstream activities and they may cost too much to repair. It may also be in the economic interest of the community to return the river to a more natural condition to serve its original potential uses.