Polluters Dump 226 Million Pounds of Toxins into U.S. Rivers


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
1 Indiana 27,366,513
2 Virginia 18,135,255
3 Nebraska 14,773,383
4 Texas 14,571,913
5 Georgia 12,616,727
6 Louisiana 10,898,425
7 Pennsylvania 10,114,611
8 Alabama 9,852,798
9 Ohio 9,184,661
10 North Carolina 9,167,285


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 198527 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.”


photo by thinkstockphoto.com


E. Talamante
E. Talamante6 years ago

So, what ever happened to holding these corporates responsible for their crimes and the necessary clean-ups? As long as these big-wigs can get away with it, scot-free, they'll continue, increasing their mess until something gives - and right now, it looks like the environment will be the first to break under this weight.

aileen cheetham
AILEEN C6 years ago

The Clean up of the polluting by-products of Industry,agriculture sewage etc could create anew industry and employ thousands....Where is the Will of the People and the Powers that Be???????

START TODAY, Contact your polictcal party and local authority

federico bortoletto

Bruttissimo ma reale. In tutti i paesi industrializzati è così.

Katherine Wright
Katherine Wright7 years ago

This affects every living being on earth....humans and animals alike. And we should be horrified and angry. This is simply shameful and disgusting.

Cheryl B.
Cheryl B7 years ago


glenda b.
glenda b7 years ago

Like I said on Facebook....I feel like people don't want to know about Polluters or any thing else that is happening on this planet..But I am thankful for there are people who really fighting for what they believe in and caring what the hell is going on in this crazy world....

Barbara V.
Barbara V7 years ago

Are the bastards going to get by with it? If so, the people in that area deserve it.

Kimberlee W.
Kimberlee W7 years ago

Sorry Yvette, I don't blame Karma for this one, not this one.
For blame, I suggest we look at the companies first, then the governmental agencies THAT ARE SUPPOSED TO PROTECT US.
I've always said they can play as long as they play by the rules.
They're not.
They're breaking them left and right and buying off my officials to shut down the investigations.
And therein lies the blame.

Tim C.
Tim C7 years ago


Maree Ann P.

Pollution is bad and going to get worse unless we do something about it!