Ohio River Discharges Summary Report
The Ohio River supports many uses including drinking water, aquatic life and recreation. The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) monitoring programs show that the water is safe for these uses. The US EPA recently released the annual Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) National Analysis which lists the number of pounds of chemicals discharged into the environment. A portion of the TRI lists the discharges into the Ohio River, but the TRI does not include information regarding the impact of those chemicals on water quality.
According to the TRI, in 2013, twenty three million pounds of chemicals were discharged into the Ohio River. Although twenty three million is an alarming number, the volume of the Ohio River is considerable; twenty five trillion gallons flow past Cincinnati every year. The TRI report does not consider the volume of water in any river; therefore it does not calculate the concentration of chemicals in any river.
From the total reported releases into the Ohio River, ninety-two percent were nitrate compounds. ORSANCO monitors the Ohio River for nitrate compounds, among other chemicals. Greg Youngstrom, Environmental Specialist with ORSANCO states "The Ohio River easily meets the human health criteria for nitrates. Nitrate is a form of nitrogen and it is an important nutrient for aquatic life. We are currently working to determine if the level of nitrate-nitrogen is detrimental to aquatic organisms".
These discharges are regulated through permits which limit the quantities that industries are allowed to release. For additional information about chemical releases into the Ohio River, please view ORSANCO's summary report here: Ohio River Discharges Summary Report.
ORSANCO programs include water quality monitoring and assessment, spill response and detection and Ohio River discharge pollution control standards.