3/22/18
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Ohio EPA Issues Latest Water Quality Report

Today, Ohio EPA released the draft 2018 water quality report that outlines the general condition of Ohio’s waters and includes a list that identifies impaired waters that are not meeting their federal or state water quality goals, as well as waters that have improved to meet federal standards. 

The draft report highlights that between the 2002 and 2018 biennial reporting cycles, the percentage of large river miles in full attainment of federal water quality goals has increased from 62.5 percent to 87.5 percent. The draft report includes 71 areas that have improved enough to de-list as impaired since the Agency’s last report in 2016. Waters being removed from the list include the Hocking and Walhonding rivers and tributaries to the Maumee, Little Muskingum, Vermilion and Ohio rivers. 

“This is a clear sign that our work and long-term investments in Ohio to improve water quality are succeeding,” says Ohio EPA Director Craig W. Butler. Several areas also have been added to the list as being impaired for drinking water due to harmful algae, including Sims Run, parts of the Maumee River, the headwaters to Grand River and the headwaters of Cowan Creek in the Little Miami River watershed.

For 2018, the Agency is proposing to designate the open waters of Lake Erie’s Western Basin (from the Michigan/Ohio state line to the Marblehead Lighthouse) as impaired for recreation due to harmful algae and drinking water due to occurrences of microcystin. Previously, only the shoreline area of the Western Basin and drinking water intakes had been designated as impaired. 

This first-time assessment of Lake Erie was completed because the Kasich Administration requested input from representatives from The Ohio State University Sea Grant College Program, Bowling Green State University, University of Toledo, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and U.S. EPA to identify a science-based process for assessing impairment in Ohio’s Western Basin open waters for harmful algae. To date, no such process has existed, so Ohio has not been able to determine if the open waters of Lake Erie should be listed.

“We have taken unprecedented steps in recent years to put Lake Erie on a better trajectory – including investing more than $3 billion to improve its water quality,” said Director Butler. “Governor Kasich takes his responsibility to protect the lake very seriously. While designating the open waters of the Western Basin as impaired does not provide, as some suggest, a magic bullet to improve the lake, the State remains committed to our obligations under the Clean Water Act and to examine emerging science and practices that we can put in place to help improve it.”

Ohio EPA will present information about the draft impaired waters list through a webinar on April 25, 2018, at 2 p.m. The webinar may be viewed at Ohio EPA’s Central Office in conference room A, 50 West Town Street, Suite 700, Columbus, or by joining online at ohioepa.webex.com/mw3200/mywebex/default.do?siteurl=ohioepa.

The summary of each water body assessment unit is available online at epa.ohio.gov/dsw/tmdl/OhioIntegratedReport.aspx. Visit this website to review specifics concerning water bodies that are impaired or delisted. 

In addition to the draft report, the Agency’s 2018 Nutrient Mass Balance Study, which is used to determine and track nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) loads and relative proportions of point and nonpoint pollution sources, will be available mid-April. That study’s coverage will be expanded from seven major watersheds to eight, and will include some direct tributaries to Lake Erie. It will also include an analysis of four areas within the Maumee River Basin (Tiffin, Auglaize, Upper Maumee and Lower Maumee watersheds).

Written comments on the draft list of impaired water bodies may be submitted by mail no later than May 4, 2018, to epa.tmdl@epa.ohio.gov, or in writing to Ohio EPA Division of Surface Water, P.O. Box 1049, Columbus, Ohio 43216-1049, Attn: 303(d) comments. Comments submitted after this date will be considered as time and circumstances permit. Following public review and comments, a final report will be submitted to U.S. EPA. 

The State has common-sense guidance and recommended precautions for people and pets recreating in waters like Lake Erie at epa.ohio.gov/portals/35/hab/HAB_palmcard.pdf.

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The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1972 to consolidate efforts to protect and improve air quality, water quality and waste management in Ohio. Since then, air pollutants dropped by as much as 90 percent; large rivers meeting standards improved from 21 percent to 89 percent; and hundreds of polluting, open dumps were replaced with engineered landfills and an increased emphasis on waste reduction and recycling.


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