Pollution Problem: Protecting American Mink & the Ohio River

NWF   |   April 5, 2019

Right now, we have a short window of time to protect American mink and the Ohio River from heavy metal toxins and destructive invasive species. The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission is considering a proposal to make full adoption and implementation of the Ohio River Pollution Control Standards optional.

Don’t let the commission endanger the health of wildlife and people living in the Ohio River watershed—send a message in support of mandatory pollution control standards today!


For over 70 years, the safety of river habitat for the American mink living in the Ohio River Basin has been the responsibility of a multi-state commission. Last year, the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) proposed to discontinue setting pollution control standards for the Ohio River, which would negatively impact millions of people and fish and wildlife. During the proposal’s comment period, commissioners heard loud and clear from thousands of our members that eliminating uniform pollution limits was unacceptable for the plant and animal life that have no voice of their own. Based on your outcry they have provided a new proposal, and now we have a short window of time to protect America’s great wildlife like the American mink and the Ohio River from heavy metal toxins and destructive invasive species.

American mink. Credit:
Tom Koerner/USFWS

The survival of mink that burrow and hunt along the Ohio River and its waterways is threatened by industrial waste discharged into the watershed. Chemical waste is regularly discharged into the Ohio River resulting in water quality and fish consumption advisories for people—yet the fish and other aquatic life that mink depend on for food are laced with contaminants like mercury and other heavy metals that continue to accumulate in the environment.

Without consistent, uniform pollution control standards adopted throughout the watershed, higher amounts of toxic chemicals like mercury will flow into the river, and riverbank habitats could be devastated by invasive species like the grass carp.

Tell the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, NO to rolling back the Pollution Control Standards and make them mandatory for state adoption.

The Sherman Minton Bridge, northern shore of the Ohio River in New Albany. Credit: Charles Edward/Wikimedia Commons.

Making the Pollution Control Standards optional for states to adopt leaves people and important animal species vulnerable to inconsistent water quality standards from state to state and a river segment by river segment. This approach to managing a river defined by state boundaries prevents the protection and management of the river as a system not bound by state lines.

With water safeguards being challenged at federal and local levels, it’s more important than ever that the commissioners appointed to serve YOU, and the wildlife in your state, protect and enforce pollution control standards.