CINCINNATI — The Ohio River was listed as the second-most endangered river in the U.S. in a recent report by American Rivers.
According to the nonprofit formed to protect and restore rivers, pollution is the biggest problem impacting the Ohio River. Mining, manufacturing and chemical production are threatening the river, which stretches nearly 1,000 miles and is a source of drinking water for around 5 million people.
In a release, Kentucky Waterways Alliance executive director Michael Washburn said the report is not surprising.
“The East Palestine disaster is only the most recent high profile incident of abuse endured by the Ohio River and the people and animals that rely on it,” Washburn said in the release. “Despite being one of our nation’s most important waterways, the Ohio River and its basin have long been neglected. Restoring and protecting the Ohio River is not merely the environmentally responsible thing to do, but it is a critical imperative for the health and well-being of our communities and our economies.”
Tri-State residents gathered at Cincinnati City Hall Tuesday to ring the alarm bell and call for change.
“Who speaks for nature? Who protects nature? The government agencies don’t anymore,” said Lynn Hamamoto, a member of Citizens for Rights of the Ohio River Watershed. “We need to put the P, protection, back in the EPA because it’s been taken away, it’s been co-opted. We recognize that. We see that. We are not gonna stand for it anymore.”
Another member echoed Hamamoto’s sentiments, saying she feels as if the citizens’ voices are been drowned out.
“I’m very concerned that citizens have no voice, it’s the corporate voice ... that are drowning the citizen’s voice out from protecting our own environment,” said Jean Nightingale.
Ohio River Way, a regional coalition of more than 100 communities and organizations along the river, is calling on Congress to designate the river as a federally-protected water system and fund a basin-wide restoration plan. Advocates say they want a plan similar to the plans that helped improve conditions in the Great Lakes.
“It’s a fight for nature — it’s a fight for life and death,” Hamamoto said.
To see the entire American Rivers report, go online to americanrivers.org.