Toxic Discharges In The Waterways Of Neb., S.D.

Do you like toxic waste?

Why not just go for a swim?

According to a report released by Environment America last month, 226 million pounds of toxic chemicals were dumped into waterways by industrial facilities in 2010. The report is titled, “Wasting Our Waterways: Toxic Industrial Pollution and the Unfulfilled Promise of the Clean Water Act.”

Using information from the Environmental Protection Agency, the report states that toxic chemicals were discharged into more than 1,400 waterways in all 50 states. The Ohio River saw the largest amount of discharges.

However, don’t be lulled into thinking this is someone else’s problem. The Missouri River ranked seventh on the list with 4,887,971 pounds of toxic discharges in 2010. The Shonka Ditch and Tricounty Canal in Nebraska held the following two spots. The Big Sioux River placed 13th. Nebraska ranks number three among states with the highest toxic discharges into waterways. South Dakota fares a little better at 21.

What kinds of chemicals are being dumped? According to the report:

  • Industrial facilities discharged approximately 1.5 million pounds of chemicals linked to cancer to more than 1,000 waterways during 2010. Nevada’s Burns Creek received the largest volume of carcinogenic releases, with a small neighboring creek placing third. The Mississippi River, Ohio River, and Tennessee River also suffered large releases of carcinogens. Pulp and paper mills, gold mines and chemical manufacturers were the industries that released the greatest volume of carcinogenic chemicals in 2010.
  • About 626,000 pounds of chemicals linked to developmental disorders were discharged into more than 900 waterways. Burns Creek in Nevada, a small waterway near a gold mine, suffered the greatest amount of developmental toxicant discharges, followed by the Kanawha River in West Virginia and the Mississippi River. Gold mining was the largest source of developmental toxicants, followed by pesticide manufacturing and fossil fueled power generation.
  • Approximately 354,000 pounds of chemicals linked to reproductive disorders were released to more than 900 waterways. West Virginia’s Kanawha River received the heaviest dose of reproductive toxicants, followed by the Mississippi, Ohio, and Brazos rivers.
  • Discharges of persistent bioaccumulative toxics (including dioxin and mercury), organochlorines, and phthalates are also widespread. Safer industrial practices can reduce or eliminate discharges of these and other dangerous substances to America’s waterways.

What solutions does Environment America suggest?

  • The Obama Administration should clarify that the Clean Water Act applies to headwater streams, intermittent waterways, isolated wetlands and other waterways for which Clean Water Act protection has been called into question as a result of recent Supreme Court decisions.
  • EPA and the states should strengthen enforcement of the Clean Water Act by, among other things, ratcheting down permitted pollution levels from industrial facilities, ensuring that permits are renewed on time, and requiring mandatory minimum penalties for polluters in violation of the law.
  • EPA should eliminate loopholes – such as the allowance of “mixing zones” for persistent bioaccumulative toxic chemicals – that allow greater discharge of toxic chemicals into waterways.

Read the whole report here.

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