Ohio River Valley

The small industrial and post-industrial towns along the Ohio River are facing environmental and economic distress. The two largest employers in one such town—East Liverpool, Ohio—are SH Bell, a warehouse and processor for manganese and other chemicals, and Heritage Thermal, the world’s largest toxic waste incinerator. As a result, neighborhood children and their families attend school and play on playgrounds and sports fields with toxic air, soil, and water. Local and state agencies and elected officials have yet to come to the defense of residents in ways that yield accountability or improvements. In several communities along the River, mercury was discovered in the water supply and high levels of manganese is being found in hundreds of children. The state Environmental Protection Agency has lapsed on monitoring, complaints to the state Attorney General office go unheard, and an area congressman has even called the national EPA’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions “un-American” and job killing. For residents and local government leaders, there appears to be an ultimatum: jobs—and the resulting pollution—or nothing. 

This is a wicked choice. We believe that East Liverpool, Marietta, Portsmouth and all cities along the Ohio River can have strong economies, as well as clean air, water, and soil. 

The Ohio River Valley team is also deeply dedicated to harm reduction work across the state. Facilitated by OOC staff, and built by community leaders, Ohio River Valley is the home of UnHarming Ohio - the state’s first union for survivors of the war on drugs. The group includes affected community members from all sides of the drug war, and spans 17 counties. The Portsmouth chapter hosts monthly meetings to involve the community in their efforts to UnHarm Ohio.

We are organizing in small towns along the Ohio River Valley to save lives and reshape the electorate, winning important, life-saving reforms in the process. By building power in this region, we can knit together a powerful urban and rural coalition that fights for environmental justice.