Significant improvements have been accomplished throughout the Ohio River Basin through the combined efforts of federal, state, and local governments. The last half of the twentieth century has seen a reversal of the previous trend of river degradation. As of the mid-1990s, nearly 94 percent of the Ohio River Basin's sewered population was served by at least secondary treatment. This accomplishment, on such a large scale, has shown what regional cooperation can achieve. The Ohio River now supports many uses that had previously been seriously impaired. Support of use for public water supply and aquatic habitat is maintained along the entire river. Sportfishing has returned, and the dramatic improvement in water quality is reflected in the increasing number of fishing tournaments along the river, including the Bass Masters Classic at Cincinnati.
Much progress has been made, but there is a recognizable need for further action. Water-based recreation continues to be impaired by high bacteria levels in the river. As of 1988, contact recreation was not supported on 59 percent of the river and was fully supported on only 6.5 percent of the river. Fish consumption advisories were still in effect for Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia in 1989, due to high levels of PCBs and chlordane found in fish tissues (ORSANCO, 1989a). Certain metals, organic compounds, cyanide, phenol, copper, zinc, oxygen, and temperature also continue to pose a problem. ORSANCO is considering how to address these and other stream quality impairments by addressing nonpoint source pollution controls (Norman, 1991), combined sewer overflow controls (Tennant et al., 1990), control of toxic chemicals (Vicory and Tennant, 1994), and control of ecological effects of hydropower development. Continued improvements are seen in monitoring, detection, and regulation, as well as treatment and spill response (Vicory and Tennant, 1993). The combination of present efforts with past achievements has put the Ohio River on the road to recovery.
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