Industrial polluters dumped 226 million pounds of toxic chemicals in to U.S. waterways in 2010, according to a new report by Environment America. The group analyzed government data on industrial facilities to reveal total discharges by state and which U.S. rivers bear the heaviest toxic chemical burden.
Food and beverage manufacturing, which includes slaughterhouses and rendering plants, heavy metals manufacturing, chemical plants, and petroleum refineries were among the largest polluters. The biggest single polluter, according self-reported data to EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory, was AK Steel with nearly 30 million pounds of toxins into waterways in Indiana and Ohio.
|Top 10 States by Toxic Releases in 2010|
|Rank||State||Pounds of Toxics Released|
Polluters in just the top 5 states were responsible for 40% of all toxins released into U.S. waterways in 2010.
New to the 2010 Toxics Release Inventory data is watershed discharge information, allowing Americans to know for the first time exactly how much pollution is being dumped into the rivers that provide drinking water and recreation for their communities.
|Top 10 Waterways for Total Toxic Discharges, 2010|
|Rank||Waterway||Toxic discharges (lb.)|
|1||Ohio River (IL, IN, KY, OH, PA, WV)||32,111,718|
|2||Mississippi River (AR, IA, IL, KY, LA, MN, MO, MS, TN, WI)||12,739,749|
|3||New River (NC, VA)||12,529,948|
|4||Savannah River (GA, SC)||9,624,090|
|5||Delaware River (DE, NJ, PA)||6,719,436|
|6||Muskingum River (OH)||5,754,118|
|7||Missouri River (IA, KS, MO, ND, NE)||4,887,971|
|8||Shonka Ditch (NE)||4,614,722|
|9||Tricounty Canal (NE)||3,386,162|
|10||Rock River (IL, WI)||3,370,392|
The report, Wasting Our Waterways: Industrial Toxic Pollution and the Unfulfilled Promise of the Clean Water Act, did not compare actual discharges to legally permitted pollution discharges. Environment America explains: “States (who are primarily responsible for enforcing the law in most of the country) have often been unwilling to tighten pollution limits on industrial dischargers and have often let illegal polluters get away with exceeding their permitted pollution levels without penalty or with only a slap on the wrist.”
Calling America’s waterways a “polluter’s paradise,” Environment America and its network of state-based environmental organizations are calling for:
- industrial facilities to reduce pollution by switching to less hazardous production processes, for
- the Obama administration to clearly extend Clean Water Act protections to all waterways, and for
- EPA and state agencies to tighten pollution permits and reduce legal discharges of toxic chemicals.
“The Clean Water Act’s original objective was to clean up all of America’s waterways by 1985–27 years ago,” said Rob Kerth, analyst for Frontier Group and co-author of the report. “Many people born in 1985 have kids of their own now, yet still millions of pounds of toxic chemicals are being dumped into our waterways.”
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