Indiana environmental groups have joined several others in asking the Environmental Protection Agency to limit nutrient pollution in the Ohio River. They say excess nitrogen and phosphorus from things like fertilizer, manure, and wastewater treatment plants are causing harmful algae blooms and depriving the river basin of oxygen.
There have been two algal bloom outbreaks along the Ohio River in the past five years, both spanning hundreds of miles and triggering advisories in multiple states.
“It kind of reinforces this attitude that we, I think, is felt severely — even though it may not be discussed — of the Ohio River kind of being a stepchild to some of these other big water bodies," Jason Flickner said.
Jason Flickner said pollution in the Ohio River eventually makes its way into the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico.
Kentucky attorney Hank Graddy represents the Sierra Club in the petition. He said it’s time for the EPA to step in.
“Most states have failed to adopt numeric limits and that is made enforcing control of nutrient pollution ineffective," Graddy said.
In most cases, Indiana is not allowed to adopt more stringent environmental rules than federal ones.
In 2008, many of the same groups asked the EPA to set nutrient limits for the Mississippi River — but that request was denied. Graddy said the agency said it prefers to work with states and regions to address the problem. He said, with a smaller river basin like the Ohio, the EPA should be able to keep its word.
The agency declined to comment.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.