ORSANCO: Commission’s job too vital to split up

Mid-Ohio Valley residents remember that for generations the water in the Ohio River was terribly polluted. Decades of effort by industries, municipal wastewater treatment systems and other former polluters have changed that. We must not turn back the clock.

Responsibility for setting water quality standards for the river has rested with the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission for many years. Now there is talk of leaving that up to individual states. Reasonable arguments can be made on both sides of the issue. Some manufacturers say ORSANCO rules are unnecessarily rigid and inhibit local economies. But, some utilities that draw water from the river say relaxing the regulations could be detrimental.

In theory, even if ORSANCO hands power to regulate water quality back to the states, the federal Clean Water Act would prevent egregious pollution.

ORSANCO is governed by a commission that includes representatives of the six states — West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois — that border the river. Also represented, for some reason, are Virginia and New York officials.

“We won’t move forward with a change that would weaken water quality,” pledged ORSANCO Executive Director Richard Harrison.

Discussing how to pare down the nation’s dizzying, confusing bureaucracy is never a bad idea. Still, ORSANCO seems to have done a good job for many years, and it is difficult to see how six individual sets of state regulations would be an improvement.