As President Trump departs Cincinnati today, we need to take stock of what he’s leaving behind: a polluted river, and a city clamoring for both upgraded water systems and clean energy opportunities.
The Ohio River served as the backdrop for the president’s speech, and he rightly touted its role in America’s infrastructure. However, with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in tow, the president should have been speaking about the poor health of the river, which has been repeatedly named one of the most polluted waterways in the country. With a backdrop of a coal barge, the president displayed his preference for outdated energy sources of the past that damage our water and air, instead of looking to Ohio’s energy future.
As a native Cincinnatian, I’m well aware of the issues that we face when it comes to the Ohio River. The riverfront is like Cincinnati’s living room, and is an important way we build community and connect with friends and family. For the last few years, the Ohio River has been near the top of the list of America’s most polluted waterways. The president needs to think of the 968,000 Ohioans who rely on the river for their drinking water, and those who depend on the river for the health of their small businesses. He needs to think of people who pursue recreational activities on the river, like his friend, avid kayaker Senator Rob Portman.
President Trump’s decision to talk about infrastructure on the Ohio River, while we await his announcement of repealing the Clean Water Rule shows just how out of touch he is. With the president’s proposed environmental budget cuts, and plans to greatly reduce protections for the rivers and streams so many of us rely on for drinking water, the Ohio River will spiral backwards to a time when rivers were treated as dumping grounds, taking the people of Cincinnati with it. We need to treat the Ohio River like a natural resource, not like a highway.