Archive for the ‘State of Clean Water Act Violations in Ohio’ Category

The fifth installment in the OELC’s report on the State of Clean Water Act Violations in Ohio

(Posted by Trent A. Dougherty, Director of Legal Affairs, Ohio Environmental Council, Director of Ohio Environmental Law Center)

As the any year comes to a close, reflections and musings on the good and not-so-good is expected. As it is the end of the first year of a gubernatorial administration, it is fitting, to me at least, to reflect on the regulatory enforcement of the past year.   When it comes to water quality enforcement, the Director of Ohio EPA is granted broad enforcement authority under ORC 6111.03) to issue orders to prevent, control, or abate water pollution– short of calling on the Attorney General.  With 43 finalized “Director’s Orders,” this year has been a statistical success compared to the 24 last year. And for the first year of a new gubenatorial administration that began the year with a “regulatory reform” initaiative aimed to aid businesses, it is a solid showing.  However, with the an estimated 25% of the 3,000 state discharge permits being violated and untold numbers of pollution incidents happening without a permit, it’s difficult to say if the enforcement process is really working.

While the agency does not have a “prioritization process” for enforcement, 2011 Director’s Orders do show a trend toward focusing enforcement on public water treatment and sewage issues.  Nearly 40% of the Directors Orders from public permit holders.  As I sit in Columbus today, hearing the rain hit my window, and imagine the havoc that rain is having on the storm sewers, I am glad they have tried to make this a priority.  Although, it’s a Citizen Suit that is addressing Franklin County’s sewage issues (see previous post).

Here is a snapshot:

Just last month, the Director issued Findings and Orders against the Village of Cecil for pollution discharge  exceedences, ordering the Village to develop a treatment improvement plan in 120 days, and achieve compliance with their permit in 18 months (along with a $2k fine).

In the City of Toledo, Ohio EPA finalized a multi- year effort to abate a public health nuisance, which included unhealthy inundations of E. coli and fecal coliform, in some of the City’s non-sewered areas.  Dearden Place and Birdsall road area is an unsewered location within the corporation limits of Toledo.  The properties in this area dispose of their sewage through a sewer network that empties into a private septic tank, with an outlet to the City’s storm sewers and leading to Silver Creek (a water of the state).  This network of sewers was discovered in 2003, but existed previously.

The City was notified of the sewer network and Ohio EPA requested that the City stop the unsanitary conditions by providing public sewers.  The City applied twice to build the sewers, was approved, but never began construction.

The  Orders against the City included an 18 month schedule to initiate construction of sewer plans to abate the unsanitary conditions at the site, and a 28 month schedule to construct a completed sewer.

A Spring Order against the City of Vermilion for the City to provide OEPA with sewer rate report; create a schedule for elimination of SSOs; and Pay OEPA civil penalty of $15,000.00.  The City was cited for:

 

  1. Separate Sanitary Overflows from three pump stations; did not remedy according to schedule in NPDES permit; several effluent violations from wastewater treatment plant (Total Suspended Solids; pH; low level Mercury)
  2. Failed to apply for a proper sludge permit; Notice of Violation sent
  3. Wastewater Treatment Plant was not properly maintained

City of Crestline violated sampling requirements of its NPDES permit; had Sanitary Sewer Overflows present (SSO); did not correct SSOs within timeframe of the permit; and failed to submit plan for improvement.  Samples collected showed toxicity to C. Dubia.  As a result, the Director hit the City with multiple orders, including a strict timeline for fixing the SSO problem and a $14,000 penalty.

The Enforcement Process
According to the Agency, the docket for the enforcement section consists of around 70 administrative cases active and 62 active referred cases sent to the AG.  Enforcementprocess begins at the District Office (DO).  The district office, whether at the behest of a complaining citizen or through review of compliance reports, identifies violators of clean water laws.  The DO Enforcement Coordinator drafts referral to Central Office. CO enforcement section’s four staff along with the four water attorneys review the referral.  From this referral options for enforcement are developed, which include: Unilateral orders by OEPA with no penalty can be assessed; Proposed action with a penalty under $125,000 (anything over $125K in penalty must be referred to AGs office); or Referral to AG’s office for possible prosecution.

There have been some good results, but,  is this process working?  The number of of these Director’s orders are increasing, seemingly, with the increase in violators.   As we have seen in preparation for the 60-day notice filed on Franklin County’s unsewered townships, that the big enforcement needs are not always addressed by one District Office, but a similar but smaller issue (like Toledo, above), gets Director’s level enforcement. While not even the TV cops can catch every crook in the act, there needs to be a step that gets some of the minor sources in line before the long process of formal enforcement (and thus continued violations).

Governor John Kasich, in his first biennial budget, suggested a priority for Ohio EPA streamline permitting and enforcement.  According to discussions with Director Scott Nally of Ohio EPA, streamlined enforcement means simply to give the Agency more tools to gain compliance without using formal Findings and Orders and/or referral to the Office of the Ohio Attorney General.  Such tools could be a stiff ticketing system to allow enforcement personnel to charge a monetary fine after a failed, informal enforcement measure.  The goal, according to Director Nally, is to use quick monetary enforcement to motivate management of the violating entity or corporation to prioritize their environmental permitting responsibilities – a proverbial hit to the pocket to get attention.  We believe that such chief level enforcement is essential and is a long way past due.

Since it is the Holiday Season, I will give (slight) praise to the Agency.  One huge advancement for the Ohio EPA DSW enforcement section over the past few years, and through it an advancement for the people of Ohio, is the section’s transparency. The section has put their enforcement cases on the web. Further, the Division’s interactive maps allow citizens to pinpoint discharge violators in their counties and review the permits and compliance information for thousands of permits.

Going into 2012, John Kasich’s OEPA needs to continue with, and increase, transparency of its enforcement; expand the prioritization to the sectors referenced in previous posts (schools, trailer parks, etc.); and use tough penalties early to push compliance.

Next installment: “When they call in the Big Guns: The Ohio’s  Attorney General’s Clean Water Enforcement

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The fourth installment in the OELC’s report on the State of Clean Water Act Violations in Ohio

(Posted by Trent A. Dougherty, Director of Legal Affairs, Ohio Environmental Council, Director of Ohio Environmental Law Center)

The first three installments of the Ohio Environmental Law Center’s Series on the State of Clean Water Act enforcement in Ohio has been focused on the large number of NPDES discharge violations.  Yet, there is another big problem facing the Ohio EPA’s enforcement process – acres of wetlands and thousands of linear feet of streams being filled, requiring mitigation, but mitigation projects not being constructed.   In fact, when we asked Ohio EPA Division of Surface Water management what were the big enforcement issues facing Ohio EPA — lack of mitigation second only to the great number pollutant discharge violations.

Before a housing developer, mining operation, municipality or any other entity fills a wetland or stream, Section 401(a) of the Clean Water Act (CWA) requires them to obtain from the state, a certification that the discharge is consistent with state water quality standards.  These certifications usually require, among other terms and conditions, that the developer mitigate their impacts by, for example, constructing a wetland to replace the size and water quality function of the wetland destroyed.

Of the thousands of mitigation projects in effect, a large number violate the simple requirement of reporting progress of constructed wetland and stream mitigation projects. As an example, see a list of Suspect Pending Mitigation Projects compiled from Ohio EPA records in Spring 2010.

These Ohio EPA records show a list of over 200 401 Certification holders who have been required to conduct compensatory mitigation to replace the size and function of the watercourses they have impacted, but at the time of the list had not sent monitoring reports as required, nor  had Ohio EPA any knowledge of whether the mitigation has begun.

In some instances, inclusion on this list of “suspect projects” can be a mere paperwork issue where the permittee simply forgot to file the necessary reports after mitigation had been constructed.  While such mistakes are Clean Water Act and Ohio Water Quality Law violations, they have not substantially impaired the waters of Ohio.  However, what appears as a  minor paperwork issue may be hiding other, more substantive violations of law.  Specifically, it may be hiding instances where a wetland has been filled but the creation of a replacement wetland has not occurred.

This problem speaks only to whether there has been mitigation constructed, not even to the quality (or lack thereof) of the mitigation – another huge issue impacting Ohio water quality.  It does, however, also underlie two larger problems with Ohio EPA enforcement.

First, it shines a light on how few resources Ohio EPA has to monitor these projects as they not only do not have the staff to verify whether mitigation is occurring, but further do not have the staff to always follow up on whether those constructed projects conducted according to technical and ecological requirements.  Secondly, there still considerable concern over whether constructed wetlands adequately replace the function as well as their naturally occurring counterpart.  If that construction is not conducted at all, the impact to the watershed is even more profound.

There is a way to combat the issue of 401 Certification violations through the Clean Water Act’s Citizen Suit provisions.  After a year of researching the Ohio EPA’s files concerning 401 certifications based on the list of suspect mitigation proposals, we noticed a large number of coal operators on the list of “suspect mitigation projects.”  While coal operations were not the largest class of suspects, the number was significant.

As a reaction, last December, Ohio Environmental Council filed a 60 –day notice against Oxford Mining for not filing annual reports and for not properly mitigating their impacts to thousands of linear feet of streams on a number of projects in Eastern Ohio.

In response to our 60-day notice, the Ohio EPA proceeded with enforcement due to the Company’s lack of reporting.  Also, Ohio EPA staff and management have expressed that they will pursue changes in the language of their certification terms and conditions that allows them more ability to go motivate coal operators to quickly mitigate their impacts as to have no net loss.  Further, the 60-day notice led to a very productive meeting between OEC and Oxford that assisted us in understanding the ways coal operators proceed with their projects, and influenced the way we responsibly advocate for appropriate EPA oversight of these mitigation projects.

However, citizen or government enforcement through the legal system need not be the only way to fix this problem.  This is truly an area where more staff and capacity with Ohio EPA to monitor and follow up on the thousands of mitigation projects is sorely needed.  More resources for the Ohio EPA mitigation staff would help compliance, make sure the watersheds are protected, and provide certainty to the regulated community.

While politicians now a days want to see leaner state government, when protecting our wetlands and streams, the state needs to pack on a few pounds.

For more information on Ohio EPA’s Mitigation program, check out the 2010 report.

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The third installment in the OELC’s report on the State of Clean Water Act Violations in Ohio

(Posted by Trent A. Dougherty, Director of Legal Affairs, Ohio Environmental Council, Director of the Ohio Environmental Law Center)

A few weeks back, in our first two installments on the state of Ohio’s Clean Water Act enforcement, OELC shined its light on the Five Biggest discharge limit violators as well as the concern over Ohio schools and their contribution to water pollution.  Another group of Clean Water Act violators in Ohio are Mobile Home Parks.

These Mobile Home Parks have been a thorn in the side of water quality regulators (and water quality for that matter) for decades.  I have talked with attorneys who were on the very first Ohio EPA staff in the early 1970’s, and retired Assistant Attorneys General from the Environmental Enforcement Section, and they tell me the same thing, sewage discharges from trailer parks are constantly a problem.  In many cases, they say, the biggest culprits are those parks that are operated by out of state corporations that own multiple facilities throughout the country.  The feeling is, from these conglomerate owned parks, as long as the sign is lit and the grass is mowed, the wastewater system takes a backseat.  The result?  Effluent exceedences of Fecal Coliform, Nitrogen, and Total Suspended Solids of hundreds of times beyond the acceptable limits.

While definitely not the situation with every mobile home park, the number of violations, and recalcitrant violators make them a necessary target for compliance monitoring.  These parks thus account for a great share of the workload for Environmental Enforcement Section and in-house Ohio EPA lawyers.  Earlier this year, the AG’s office entered into a Consent Decree with Knollwood Mobile Home Park in Athens County, for a civil penalty of $100,000 from a Clean Water Act enforcement action.  In 2010, the Agency enforced violations through Director’s Findings and Orders against Chateau Estates Mobile Home Park (Springfield), and Hockingport MHP (Hockingport); and the AG’s Office secured judgment in Lake County against Sands Trailer Park & Sales Inc. , and a Consent Order in Stark County in a case against Hillview MHP.

What to do? What to do? – As a consistent water quality problem, the regulators must make these operations a priority.  Ohio EPA enforcement staff must continue to assist the operators to reach and sustain compliance with their discharge permits.  In many cases, that means forcing elimination of the discharge and hooking up to public sewers.  This is a costly proposition for many of the small operators, but a necessity for Ohio’s water quality.

For those who are constant repeat offenders, the Attorney General’s office should continue to make it a priority to investigate these operations, and prosecute these recalcitrants to the fullest extent to achieve future compliance.  Further, the state must seek penalties in amounts that are far greater than the benefit received from not following the law.  This is necessary tool in not only the state’s Clean Water Enforcement, but must be a staple in all enforcement of environmental, natural resource, and health laws.

Here are the four Mobile Home Parks that are giving Ohio’s watersheds a hard way to go.

R & M STATELINE LTD.

Located in Lowellville, OH, Stateline’s discharge outfall  drains to Kings Lake Tributary of Mill Creek (Mahoning River watershed).  While more sporadic than the parks listed below over the past three years, Stateline’s exceedences have been large at times.  For example, the exceedences from this outfall have been as high as 12,900% and 29,900% for Fecal Coliform, and 41,872 for Total Suspended Solids.

MILLBORNE MANOR WHP

Millborne Manor, in the Tuscarawas River Watershed near Orville, has seen 107 effluent exceedences over the past 12 Quarters from its two discharge outfalls.  These exceedenses have been for Total Suspended Solids, Nitrogen, Fecal Coliform, and Phosphorous.

VINTAGE VILLAGE ESTATES

Located in Girard, OH, this park discharges to Squaw Creek (Mahoning River watershed).  Consistently throughout the past three years (at least) Vintage Village Estates has exceeded its maximum enforceable limits of nitrogen (from 30-735%) and Total Suspended Solids (up to 817% above permit limit)

COUNTRY VIEW OF SUNBURY

This MHP, located in Sunbury, OH, discharges into Perfect Creek in the Upper Scioto Watershed.  The three years worth of discharges from Country View include exceedences of 2680% above its nitrogen limits, 350% of  its total suspended solids, and 680% of its fecal coliform.

*All four of these operations discharge into Section 303(d) listed, already impaired waters.

 

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The second installment in the OELC’s report on the State’s Clean Water Act Violations in Ohio

(Posted by Trent A. Dougherty, Director of Legal Affairs, Ohio Environmental Council

First of all, the Ohio Environmental Law Center (OELC) would like to recognize the 39th Birthday of the Clean Water Act!  On October 18, 1972, both the US Senate and the US House of Representatives overrode President Richard Nixon’s veto of the 1972 Amendments to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (otherwise known as the Clean Water Act).  Through challenges on jurisdiction, missed deadlines to eliminating pollution (still working on that), to the Act facing its current slings and arrows from the 112th Congress, the CWA has certainly cleaned the nation’s waterways and made water safe for millions of Americans.   The Clean Water Act has been most effective at cleaning up pollution from “point sources” such as sewage treatment plants and industrial facilities. In 1970, these sources accounted for 85% of the pollutants in our waters, and today account for only 15%.

However, compliance with the Act’s point source permit requirements by the thousands of regulated facilities in Ohio alone is a challenge.  Over 2,000 facilities in Ohio have had at least one effluent violation from their National Pollutant Elimination System (NPDES) permits over the pas three years.

We began the OELC series on Clean Water Act Enforcement and Compliance in Ohio on the theme of “Back to School,” shining a light on just a few of the many public schools that have had multiple and significant Clean Water Act violations for discharging tens, hundreds, even thousands of times the pollution limits in their  state permits.  As OELC attorneys reviewed thousands of NPDES compliance records, the numbers and amounts of exceedances of pollution limits from these institutions meant to teach our children was alarming.

However, as we recognized in the previous post, those schools are not necessarily the worst polluters in the state over the past three years – not by a long shot.  In this installment, we are focusing on the biggest NPDES violators in Ohio – the five facilities that, over the last three years, had over 100 effluent exceedances into already pollution impaired waters to the state.

In order to meet the promise of the Clean Water Act, we need to have strict enforcement of the permits and certifications, resulting in strict compliance with the letter and spirit of the law.  We need Good Actors incentivized to continue to be Good Actors.  We need disincentives that are strong and consistent, to turn Bad Actors (i.e. recitative violators) into Good Actors.  And of course, we resources for the state and federal regulators to monitor and investigate the thousands of regulated facilities, and the human resources of citizens to take the charge of being enforcers of the Act in their community.

“Can we afford clean water? Can we afford rivers and lakes and streams and oceans which continue to make life possible on this planet? Can we afford life itself? … These questions answer themselves.”  Senator Edmund Muskie’s question to his Senate colleagues in urging an override of President Nixon’s veto of the Clean Water Act on Oct. 17, 1972

OK, shining a light on 844 pollution incidents in three years from the  five facilities below, is not the best way to celebrate one’s 39th birthday.  Yet, the hope is that by next year, the Clean Water Act’s 40th will be cleaner. 

MILLBORNE MANOR WHP

Millborne Manor (Permit ID: OH0129836 )is a Mobile Home Community in Orrville, OH, discharging into an unnamed tributary to Sugar Creek in the Tuscarawas River Watershed.  Millborne Manor’s 107 pollution limit exceedances over the past 12 Quarters have included: Fecal Coliform exceedances up to 1900%; Nitrogen exceedances up to 3,680%; Phosphorus Violations exceeding 953%; and Total Suspended Solids exceedances from 42% to 983%.

 

VAGABOND VILLAGE

Vagabond Village (Permit ID: OH0132462) has had, over the past three years, 110 effluent exceedances violations, including violations for nitrogen, total suspended solids and fecal coliform.  Vagabond Village’s discharges into the Upper Maumee River, in a stretch designated in as impaired.

Over this 12 quarter period, Vagabond’s exceedances of fecal coliform have ranged from 4,900% to a high of 12,300%; exceeded limits for Nitrogen ranging from 7,010% to 21,000%, and Total Suspended Solids up to 3,550%.

Hilltop Meats

Hilltop Meats (Permit ID: OH0134112) has experienced 140 exceedances over the past 12 quarters.   This facility, located in Harrison, Ohio on the western edge of Hamilton County, discharges into Lower Great Miami, on an impaired stretch of the Great Miami.

Hilltop’s Clean Water Act violations for effluent exceedances include: Oil and grease exceedances of up to 3,650% its permit limit; Fecal Coliform exceedances up to 1,900%; and Nitrogen exceedances ranging from 4,900% to a staggering 95,900%.

To Ohio EPA’s credit, the Agency has issued eight (8) letters of violation to Hilltop since 2007.

HOLMES CHEESE CO INC

The Holmes Cheese Company (Permit ID: OH0075922) discharges from its treatment works into Corns Run in the Walhonding Watershed — a CWA 303 (d) listed impaired water).

Over the aforementioned Three-Year compliance period, Holmes Cheese has had 165 effluent exceedances, with a great number coming in the first six months of 2011.  For example, from the company’s Discharge point 001: Total Solids exceedances ranged from 229% to 1,817%; from 1,338% to 1,983% exceedances for Phosphorus; and Fecal Coliform exceedances from 72% to 1,233%.  In its second Discharge point (point 601) Phosphorus exceedances ranged between 2,393% to 2,954% and its Fecal Coliform exceedances ranged from 268% to 599%.

Belden Brick Company

Belden Brick Company(Permit ID: OH0008141), in Sugarcreek, Ohio, however takes first prize in the number of exceedances over the past 12 quarters – 322.  To Belden Brick’s defense, the company has a large number of outfalls from many mining operations, manufacturing plants, and its Central Maintenance Locations discharging into unnamed tributaries to the South Fork of Sugar Creek, Turkeyfoot Run, and an unnamed tributary of Broad Run in the Tuscarawas River Watershed.  What also makes Belden Brick different is the types of pollutants discharged.  For example, unlike the schools and the four previous facilities above who have exceedances for Nitrogen and Fecal Coliform, Belden Brick’s key violations are for exceedances of Total Iron and Total Manganese. From these 322 exceedances, the Ohio EPA has issued the facility 12 notices of violations.

The totals come from US EPA data supplied by the NPDES permit holders themselves.  The US EPA data is presented in total exceedances over each of 12 quarters, and current to April – June 2011.

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The first installment in the OELC’s report on the State’s Clean Water Act Violations in Ohio

(Posted by Trent A. Dougherty, Director of Legal Affairs, Ohio Environmental Council,Director of the Ohio Environmental Law Center)

 Last month thousands of Ohio youngsters went back to school.  Back to Algebra tests.  Back to vocabulary tests.  Back to failing water quality tests?  Back to nitrogen, total suspended solids, and even fecal coliform pollution?  Unfortunately, yes. A surprising number of Elementary, Middle, and High Schools around the state of Ohio currently are and/or have been in substantial non-compliance of their water pollution discharge permits in violation of the Federal Clean Water Act.

According to compliance data submitted by the schools under their National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits, over the past 12 Quarters, the following schools have violated the pollution discharge limits of their permits throughout the past three years.

These schools do not represent, necessarily, the most flagrant violators of the Act, nor do their violations necessarily result in the worst pollution to Ohio’s waters.  Nor even are these the only five schools violating the Clean Water Act permits.  However, these schools and other similar schools have been, and some currently are, discharging sometimes in excess of thousands of times more than the amount allotted by their state permit.  These excessive discharges include  pollutants such as Fecal Coliform, sediment (total suspended solids), dissolved oxygen, and nitrogen — all can contribute to human and environmental health problems.

Further, all of the schools listed below discharge into a watercourse that is already listed by the state as being impaired.  Continued exceedences only look to impair these waters further.  What makes this most problematic is the small number of “enforcement” actions conducted by the state in response to such excessive violations.

The following list contains the data reported on the US EPA’s Enforcement & Compliance History Online NPDES database.  The data online is current as of the April 2011- June 2011 reporting quarter, and reports the exceedences in PERCENT OVER the permit limit for each regulated pollutant for the past 12 quarters.  As discussed in an earlier post, our goal is to shine light on the industries and issues that are impacting Ohio’s water quality and spark a move toward compliance.  Hopefully we will succeed.

1.       Franklin Monroe Elementary  School

8638 OAKES RD , ARCANUM, OH 45304

Ohio EPA Permit No. OH0133949

Upper Great Miami Watershed– Painter Creek.

  • Exceedences of CBOD range from 1,080% in QTR 4,   April- June 2009 to 4,800% in QTR 2, October – December 2008.
  • Exceedences of Fecal Coliform: range from 48,900% in QTR 6, October – December 2009 to the highest exceedence of 99,900% in QTR 1, July – September 2008.
  • Exceedences of Nitrogen, Ammonia: range from 653% in QTR 3, January – March 2009 to 6,300% in QTR 2, October – December 2008.
  • Exceedences of Total Suspended Solids:  Solids, total suspended range from 175% in QTR 8, April – June 2010 to 2,317% in QTR 6, October – December 2009.
  • Notices of Violation: ONE (1) Letter of Violation/ Warning Letter Dated: November 10th, 2008

Franklin-Monroe has not had any exceedences during the last two quarters reported on the USEPA compliance site (the first two quarters of 2011), and the hope is that violations have ceased.

2.       Neal Elementary School

3385 Youngstown-Kingsville Rd, Vienna OH 44473

Ohio EPA Permit No. OH0129097

Shenango River Watershed

  • Exceedences of CBOD: range from 295% in QTR 1, July – September 2008 to 3450% in QTR 7, January – March 2010.
  • Exceedences of Fecal Coliform: range from 600% in QTR 8, April – June 2010 to the highest exceedence of 329,900% in QTR 6, October – December 2009.
  • Exceedences of Nitrogen, Ammonia:  range from 665% in QTR 11, January – March 2011 to 6,600% in QTR 5, July – September 2009.
  • Exceedences of Total Suspended Solids: range from 233% in QTR 11, January – March 2011 to 11,624% in QTR 3, January – March 2009.
  • Notices of Violation: (1) -Letter of Violation/ Warning Letter Dated: June 20th, 2007

3.       Matthews High School

4429 Warren-Sharon Rd, Vienna, OH 44473

Ohio EPA Permit No. OH129089

Mahoning River Watershed – Squaw Creek

  • Exceedences of CBOD: 760% in QTR 10, October – December 2010 to 94,979% in QTR 2, October – December 2008
  • Exceedences of  Fecal Coliform: ranging from 360% in QTR 1, July – September 2008 to 89,900% in QTR 6, October – December 2009.
  • Exceedences of  Nitrogen, Ammonia: ranging from 1,505% in QTR 9, July – September 2010 to 92,900% in QTR 3, January – March 2009
  • Exceedences of   Total Suspended Solids:  ranging from 133% in QTR 9, July – September 2010 to 97256% in QTR 4, April- June 2009.
  • Notices of Violation: One Letter of Violation/ Warning Letter dated: June 20th, 2007

4.       Colonel Crawford High School

2303 State Route 602, North Robinson, OH 44856

Ohio Permit No. OH0135615

Sandusky River Watershed

  • Exceedences of CBOD: ranging from 38% in QTR 11, January – March 2011 to 296% in QTR 2, October – December 2008
  • Exceedences of  Nitrogen, Ammonia:  ranging from 4% in QTR 7, January – March 2010 to 1,217% in QTR 11, January – March 2011
  • Exceedences of   Total Suspended Solids: ranging from 23% in QTR 5, July – September 2009 to 300% in QTR 3, January – March 2009
  • Notices of Violation: One (1) Notice of Violation June 30th, 2009

5.       Hardin-Northern Schools

11589 STATE RTE 81, DOLA, OH 45835

Ohio Permit No. OH0132951

Blanchard River Watershed

  • Exceedences of CBOD: ranging from 63% in QTR 11, January – March 2011to 97% in QTR 9, July – September 2010.
  • Exceedences of  Fecal Coliform of 320% in QTR 9, July – September 2010.
  • Exceedences of  Nitrogen, Ammonia:  ranging from 15% in QTR 7, January – March 2010 to 7,967% in QTR 11, January – March 2011
  • Exceedences of   Total Suspended Solids: ranging from 2583% in QTR 10, October – December 2010 to 317% in QTR 9, July – September 2010
  • Notices of Violation: Hardin-Northern has yet to receive any informal Notices of Violation.

 What to do? 

Obviously something has to be done to curb the amount of pollution and Clean Water Act Violations from these and similar schools around the state.  When dealing with private entities, a large penalty is usually the best way for water quality compliance to make it to the top of the priority list for a corporate CEO.  However, in this time of local government budget slashing, schools having to drop extracurricular activities and the wholesale discharge of teachers and staff, forcing a public school to dole out thousands of dollars it doesn’t have will not get them closer to cleaning up.  Enforcement does not have to be in the form of 6-figure penalties when dealing with a public institution.  Ohio EPA, we believe, has the authority to initiate reasonable compliance schedules with these institutions, so that they can get into compliance in quick enough to curb excessive pollution, but in a way that will not drain the already dry pockets of these school districts.  Also, there is the potential to seek creative ways of compliance through shared services (districts working with local municipalities) and public/private partnerships where private companies get the good press from helping local schools stay clean.

In the alternative, if Ohio EPA cannot or does not enforce the Clean Water Act, it is up to citizens, environmental and community organizations to take charge of protecting the water quality of their communities.

However, in this case, it should be a priority for Ohio EPA to work with these institutions to clean them up quickly and get them on a path for perpetual compliance.

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(Posted by Trent A. Dougherty, Director of Legal Affairs, Ohio Environmental Council, Director of the Ohio Environmental Law Center)

Across the nation, the system that Congress created to protect the nation’s waters under the Clean Water Act of 1972 today often fails to prevent pollution.  Two years ago, the New York Times ran an exposé about the worsening pollution in America’s Waters and the regulators’ response. US EPA records analyzed by The Times indicate that the Clean Water Act has been violated more than 506,000 times since 2004, by more than 23,000 companies and other facilities, according to reports submitted by polluters themselves. Some violations are relatively minor. But about 60 percent of the polluters were deemed in “significant noncompliance” — meaning their violations were the most serious kind, like dumping cancer-causing chemicals or failing to measure or report when they pollute. The authors of the New York Times series conduct exhaustive research on enforcement throughout the country.

Their results showed the state of Ohio, the arguable birthplace of the Clean Water Act, as near the bottom of enforcement.  According to the data, from 2004-2007, Ohio is a leader in number of Clean Water Act permitted facilities (3,114), and a leader in number of violations of the Clean Water Act per 100 facilities (62.3).  However, Ohio had only commenced enforcement activities against 19 of the more than 1,900 violations.

Yet, that was two years ago.  There is a new Administration in Ohio, a new Director of Ohio EPA, and renewed objective throughout state government toward Regulatory Reform for businesses. This begs the question, has anything changed in terms of enforcement of the Clean Water Act?

Using the same USEPA data that the New York Times used in its exposé, albeit updated, we will begin our own series on Ohio’s Clean Water Act enforcement, periodically, throughout the upcoming weeks and months.  This data comes directly from the periodic self-reports from the regulated entity.  Our series will not focus on heart-wrenching stories of toxics in drinking water causing children to get sick, nor will we pit one state’s enforcement against another.  Our series will show how the state’s enforcement procedures have changed, who and where are some of the most egregious ongiong violators of the Clean Water Act, and what can be done to get closer to compliance.  We will attempt to shine light on the industries and issues that are impacting Ohio’s water quality, watersheds that are of great concern, and changes being made within the agency to seek compliance with the Clean Water Act.

We also will provide our own recommendations for tackling the momentous effort of seeking compliance with the Clean Water Act.  Our recommendations are simple, and meant to give both arms of enforcement (the people and the state regulators) more resources to seek compliance with federal law.  The Ohio Environmental Law Center’s recommendations will be detailed throughout the upcoming weeks, but here is a sneak preview:

  • First,we urge all Ohioans who care about the environmental and human health implications of illegal activity occurring to Ohio’s waters and to their own communities, to be actively involved in the process.  From regulation development, permit development, to information gathering on one’s particular watershed, citizens must take their role and responsibility as an essential stakeholder in water quality protection.
  • Secondly, we urge the State of Ohio to embrace Citizen Suits as a way to enforce the Clean Water Act.  This includes both helping recruit and encouraging citizens to file enforcement actions as well as aiding citizens, where appropriate, in these legal efforts.  Further, the State needs to bolster stakeholder involvement in the regulatory process.
  • Thirdly, the Ohio EPA and Ohio Attorney General’s Office should prioritize their enforcement actions to encourage compliance, and implement quick and efficient enforcement mechanisms.
  • Finally, the Ohio General Assembly should act to provide Ohio EPA with the resources and regulatory tools necessary to protect Ohio’s waters from violations of the Clean Water Act and to make necessary changes in the law to allow Ohio to be effective and efficient enforcers.

When it comes to enforcement of the Clean Water Act, OELC’s desire is strict compliance with the law, and we feel that we share that with the Ohio EPA.  Thus, our posts hopefully will spark compliance on the side of the current violators, and perhaps spark increased enforcement activity from the state and citizens, alike.

So stay tuned to OELC’s website.  Next Week: Back to School, Back to Pollution

 

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