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Environmental Group Questions Ohio EPA Water Quality Enforcement
Posted on: 01/20/2014
By  Mike Cullums
In the wake of the Charleston-area chemical spill, environmentalists are questioning whether the Ohio EPA is adequately prepared to protect the state’s waterways.
Last week, the head of the Ohio EPA resigned without explanation, and the agency’s water division chief in Ohio resigned last year over reported disputes with the coal industry.
Ohio Sierra Club chair Bob Shields wrote a letter to Governor John Kasich asking for answers and says that so far there’s been no response.
"If they’re not transparent on something like this,” Shields asks, “are we going to be able to expect transparency should there be an incident, something similar to what we have going in West Virginia?"
Matt Trokan with the Sierra Club says there are 14 lapsed permits in eastern and southeastern Ohio that regulate toxic runoff from coal mining and preparation facilities. He says water pollution that violates these standards can pose a threat to waterways and human health.  
"The Ohio EPA can start by inspecting the dozens of coal-related facilities operating under expired permits in our state, and require them to meet clean water standards," Trokan says.
Shields adds that a strong state EPA is critical, not only to the health of Ohioans, but to the economy. And he says lessons can be learned from the incident in Charleston.  
"We don’t know what the cost of the West Virginia spill will be yet, but it will far exceed whatever it would have cost for that company to upgrade, even maintain, its retaining walls, and for the state to inspect that."
The owner of the decrepit storage tanks in Charleston, Freedom Industries, quickly filed for bankruptcy following the spill of coal prep chemicals into the Elk River.
Meanwhile, West Virginia citizens demonstrated outside the State Capitol on Saturday, demanding improved enforcement and reporting of chemicals near public water sources.
Some information within this report provided by Ohio News Connection
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