Environmental groups are against allowing industrial facilities to dump chemicals in parts of the Ohio River for another two years. The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission had set a deadline for October of this year for coal-fired power plants and other facilities to eliminate their “mixing zones,” areas where water quality standards don’t apply and dilution is relied on to minimize pollution.
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Now, the commission is considering extending that deadline to October 2015, saying that many facilities aren’t ready to meet the tougher standard, and more time is needed. Kim Knowles of the Prairie Rivers Network says allowing those mixing zones puts Illinois communities along the river at risk. “If you look at the Ohio River in Illinois, it runs through some pretty significant recreational areas,” Knowles said. “The concern, obviously, is mercury bio-accumulating in fish and people fishing and consuming those fish.”
States along the river already recommend limiting consumption of fish from the Ohio River due to the risk of mercury pollution. Knowles mentioned three particular facilities in Illinois that utilize these mixing zones: the LaFarge Midwest cement plant and Electric Energy’s generating station in Joppa, and the Ohio Power Co. coal terminal in Metropolis.
The Prairie Rivers Network, along with other environmental groups, are asking the commission to stick to the original deadline, or failing that, not allow any extension of the deadline past the proposed October 2015 date. The commission says it’s possible that the result may be a relaxation of pollution standards.