Good River

Good River: Stories of the Ohio is a series about the environment, economy and culture of the Ohio River watershed, produced by seven nonprofit newsrooms spanning five of the 15 watershed states.

To follow along with the project and share stories or questions, you can text OHIO to 412-528-6575. Learn more about the project here.

Participating newsrooms include:

Whose Job Is It To Reduce Toxic Mercury In The Ohio River?

Feb 7, 2020
Anglers at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.
William Alden / Flickr

Mercury, which damages young brains, is flowing through industrial wastewater into the Ohio River. But the multi-state agency tasked with keeping the waterway clean hasn’t tightened controls on this pollution because it doesn’t have the authority to do so.

The dam in Leavittsburg, Ohio, is one of nine in a regional plan to be removed along the Mahoning River, once heavily polluted from steel mills and other industries.
Julie Grant / The Allegheny Front

The Ohio River watershed is dotted with thousands of small dams. Many are remnants of bygone days of grain mills and the steel industry, which used dams to pool water needed during production.

U.S. Forest Service Fisheries Research Biologist Wendell R. Haag holds a pimpleback mussel and a purple wartyback mussel to show the differences in the species.
Carrie Blackmore Smith / PublicSource

“Will one of these fit?” Wendell R. Haag asks, holding out a couple pairs of well-worn creeking shoes he’s pulled from the back of his pickup, both decidedly larger than a ladies size 8. Haag is taking me to see an aquatic wonder, and I’ve worn the wrong shoes.

 A man walks along a grassy berm near the Ohio River across from Cincinnati, Ohio.
Leigh Taylor / Ohio Center For Investigative Juornalism

The city of Newport, Ky., is shaped on its north and west borders by the Ohio and Licking rivers. And while Newport hosts entertainment venues and a bourbon distillery bolstered by views of Cincinnati's skyline, its geography and history also create challenges. 

Jim Casto stands up against the tiled river height gauge along the entrance of the floodwall in Huntington, West Virginia.
Liam Niemeyer / Ohio Valley ReSource

When 78-year-old Jim Casto looks at the towering floodwalls that line downtown Huntington, West Virginia, he sees a dark history of generations past. 

Nurdle Patrol participant Christina Marconi holds a nurdle the size of a small pea.
Courtesy of Jace Tunnell / Allegheny Front

When the petrochemical plant being built by Shell Chemical Appalachia in Beaver County is complete, it's anticipated to bring 600 jobs as well as spinoff industries. But some researchers and activists warn that it could also bring a new type of pollution to the Ohio River Valley — nurdles. 

Jason Flickner walks on the exposed fossil beds at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.
Jeff Brooks-Gillies / Environmental Health News

When Jason Flickner was a kid, he built a dam on the creek behind his grandparents' house causing it to flood a neighbor’s basement.

Illustration of the R.E. Burger power plant.
David Wilson / Belt Magazine

The R.E. Burger coal-fired power plant’s final day ended, appropriately enough, in a cloud of black smoke and dust. From 1944 to 2011, the plant generated power, fumes and ash in the Ohio River Valley. It was one of dozens of coal and steel plants dotting the banks of the river, which for years has ranked among the nation’s most heavily polluted.

The 44th annual Ohio River Sternwheel Festival attracted an estimated 30,000 people to Marietta, Ohio, from Sept. 11 to 13, 2019.
Julie Grant / Allegheny Front

Every September, tourists flock to historic Marietta, along the banks of the Ohio River, for a celebration that harkens back to the Ohio Valley’s early days.

A creek (left) contaminated with acid mine drainage flows past a local rural road while the Carbondale doser (right) works to neutralize some of the acidity before it reaches local streams.
Curren Sheldon / 100 Days In Appalachia

In 1958, researchers from the University of Louisville and the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission gathered at a lock on the Monongahela River for routine collecting, counting and comparing of fish species. 

The Cincinnati skyline and John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge is seen from the banks of the Ohio River, Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018, in Covington, Ky.
John Minchillo / Associated Press

In June 1969, a Time Magazine article garnered national attention when it brought to light the water quality conditions in Ohio: a river had literally caught fire.