• Law advances Ohio's push to control and re-use dredged lake sediment
• Provisions include increasing Ohio EPA's power to go after landfill regulation violators
Ohio's EPA gained ground in its latest move to control dredging in Lake Erie, landfill cleanups, and community water systems management in a bill that received nearly unanimous bipartisan support.
Gov. John Kasich signed the bill into law July 7 with the support of both environmental and business groups. The state had clashed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers two years ago about revoking the ability to put dredged materials back into Lake Erie, as several parts of the lake must be dredged for the passage of cargo vessels.
Last legislative session, Ohio passed a law that provided the Ohio EPA the same authority as the federal agency to revoke licenses issued to groups putting dredged material back into Ohio waters. However, the issue then became what the state should do with the dredged material.
The new law means Ohio EPA can regulate “beneficial uses” for this sediment and direct how that material should be used to protect the environment or benefit industry.
“This is a big step,” Kristy Meyer, managing director for natural resources at the Ohio Environmental Council, told Bloomberg BNA. She has followed this issue for decades and said the Kasich administration was the first to get environmental and manufacturing stakeholders to agree.
The state's largest chamber of commerce, The Greater Cleveland Partnership, also testified in favor of the bill. A statement issued by the group said that in addition to improving quality of water in Lake Erie, the law will benefit the Cleveland Port Authority as it deals with uses for the dredged sediment.
Such uses could include creating new wetlands to aid water purification or selling the sediment to agriculture for farming.
“It's great to see Ohio create a business made out of protecting the environment,” Jen Miller, director of the Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club told Bloomberg BNA. Researchers in Toledo and Cleveland are investigating the best environmental and industry uses for the sediment.
The Sierra Club has received funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable
organization founded by Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg L.P. Bloomberg BNA
is an affiliate of Bloomberg L.P.
Other parts of the bill greatly increase the Ohio EPA's power to regulate landfills and make owners pay for cleanup, Meyer said.
Those provisions include making it a felony to “purposefully” violate the state's landfill regulations, as well as more strict controls on landfills with construction or demolition materials.
Also included are provisions that permit Ohio to collect royalties to reimburse state
cleanup costs, and the ability to take a lien out on a property that refuses to pay
New Drinking Water Rules
The bill also seeks to ensure better transparency of drinking water systems and provide people in mobile home parks with better water.
By 2018, all Ohio public water systems must report to the state an “asset management program” that proves systems have the financial capability and capital necessary for replacement and repairs.
Also included are provisions aimed at ensuring safe drinking water for trailer parks. All water systems with less than 500 connections must now keep at least $100,000 in an escrow for repairs. The Ohio EPA now can petition a court to take receivership over these systems if the Ohio EPA determines they are harmful to the public.
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