Ohio River Named America's Second-Most Endangered River

The second-place designation comes in the wake of February’s toxic explosion in East Palestine.

Ohio River Paddlefest - Photo: Facebook.com/adventurecrewcincinnati
Photo: Facebook.com/adventurecrewcincinnati
Ohio River Paddlefest

The Ohio River is now America’s second-most endangered, according to the American Rivers nonprofit.

A new report from the national nonprofit American Rivers cited industrial, municipal, and agricultural pollution from the Ohio River’s watershed, which is the source of drinking water for more than five million people.

The second-place designation comes in the wake of February’s toxic explosion in East Palestine caused by rail giant Norfolk Southern. Hazardous chemicals from 20 derailed train cars leaked poisonous materials in the surrounding air, soil and water.

In the wake of the report from American Rivers, the Ohio River Way, a regional coalition of more than 100 communities and organizations along the Ohio River, is calling on Congress to fund a basin-wide restoration plan.

“We see this designation as a call to action for our elected officials. Together we must acknowledge and address the many challenges that face this incredible resource and the millions of people who rely on the Ohio for drinking water, jobs, recreation and simple quality of life,” said Brewster Rhoads, chair of the Ohio River Way.

To address these challenges, the Ohio River Way is calling on Congress to designate the Ohio River as a federally-protected water system like the Great Lakes, Puget Sound and the Everglades. They’re also asking for increased funding to the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) for more staffing and technical upgrades to their river monitoring system.

The Ohio River Way is also recommending local officials to invest in recreation infrastructure along the waterfront, including boat ramps, hiking trails, bike lanes and parks.

“The Ohio [River] is truly one of the most amazing resources in the country,” said Dr. David Wicks, vice chair of the Ohio River Way. “The river has played a significant role in the development of our country and its economy. It is time we made the investments necessary to restore, preserve and protect the Ohio for generations to come.”

Originally published by CityBeat, Scene's sister paper in Cincinnati.
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