River buffs don't want Ohio used as sewer
By LIBBY KEELING Courier &
Press staff writer 464-7450 or email@example.com
May 2, 2006
The great majority of speakers at Monday's public hearing on the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission's proposal to change pollution control standards for the Ohio River came down firmly against the idea.
Opponents among the hearing's first speakers - many of them recreational river users - expressed a variety of concerns with the commission's proposal. The levels of E.coli and fecal coliform bacteria considered safe for recreational use of the river was chief among them.
"E.coli is s---," said Bob Hauselmire, to rousing applause from most of the crowd meeting at Casino Aztar Hotel. "You can't say this river is not recreational. My goodness, I grew up on it."
The proposed changes - which will not affect drinking water standards - would increase the amount of bacteria considered acceptable in a single sample, but the amount allowed during any 30-day period would remain the same. According to the commission's deputy executive director, the proposal would require standards to be met more often than they are now.
"Nobody, including myself, wants to see sewage in rivers," said David Hawes, director of the Regional Water Resource Agency in Daviess County, Ky. "Everybody wants the goals to be high, but they want them to be achievable."
Kevin Murphy, a waste water operator in Tennessee, also expressed support for the proposal, specifically its new wet-weather standards.
The wet-weather standards would ease restrictions after heavy rains, when the river is flowing too fast (defined as faster than 2 mph) for safe recreational use. Heavy rains can cause aging combined storm and sanitary sewer systems to overflow and spill directly into the river.
"E.coli bacteria can be fatal. Why would we agree to this proposal?" asked Christine Belt. "If this proposal goes through, I guess Evansville can now be known as the 'Sewage City.'"
If the commission changes the wet-weather standards, Jason Flickner said he would extend apologies to the people of Evansville and Southern Illinois.
"I believe the Ohio should be appreciated as more than a drain," said Flickner, water resources programmer for the Kentucky Waterways Alliance.
"This river runs downhill and Evansville is near the bottom," echoed Jack Cooper
Calling the proposed standards "atrocious and degrading," John Blair said the 2 mph recreational designation is "meaningless and wrong." Blair, president of Valley Watch, an Evansville-based environmental group, said wet weather occurs somewhere along the Ohio River virtually every day.
According to Blair, the commission is taking a "giant step" backward after helping improve the river's quality in the past.
"We don't understand that you want to nearly double the amount of E.coli in the river," he said. "Economic development will not be enhanced if you guys continually insist on making us America's sewer. And. frankly, we won't stand for it."