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John Hennessy III,

Wasting Our Waterways: Toxic Industrial Pollution and Restoring the Promise of the Clean Water Act

Posted by Content Coordinator on Friday, July 11th, 2014


Executive Summary

Industrial facilities continue to dump millions of pounds of toxic chemicals into America’s rivers, streams, lakes and ocean waters each year – threatening both the environment  and human health. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), toxic discharges from industrial facilities are responsible for polluting more than 17,000 miles of rivers and about 210,000 acres of lakes, ponds and estuaries nationwide.

To curb this massive release of toxic chemicals into our nation’s water, we must step up Clean Water Act protections for our waterways and require polluters to reduce their use of toxic chemicals.

Industrial facilities dumped 206 million pounds of toxic chemicals into American waterways in 2012, according to reports from those facilities to the national Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). (See Table ES-1 and Figure ES-1.)

Our nation’s iconic waterways are still threatened by toxic pollution – with polluters discharging chemicals into the following watersheds: Great Lakes (8.39 million pounds), Chesapeake Bay (3.23 million pounds), Upper Mississippi River (16.9 million pounds), and Puget Sound (578,000 pounds), among other national treasures. (See Figure ES-2.)

Polluters released toxic chemicals to 850 local watersheds across the country. Indiana led the nation in total volume of toxic releases to waterways, with more than 17 million pounds of discharges from industrial facilities, followed by Texas and Louisiana. The top 10 states for toxic industrial releases to waterways were the same as in 2010. (See Table ES-2.)

Watersheds receiving the highest volumes of toxic pollution were the Lower Ohio River-Little Pigeon River (Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky), the Upper New River (Virginia) and the Middle Savannah River (Georgia and South Carolina). (See Table ES-3.)

Figure ES-1. Industrial Discharges of Toxic Chemicals to Waterways by Watershed Region

Download full version (PDF): Wasting Our Waterways

About Environment California
Environment California is a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization. We believe there’s something special about California — something worth protecting and preserving for future generations. Whether it’s our magnificent Pacific coastline, Yosemite’s “glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space,” or our 278 state parks, California’s natural wonders enrich our lives in countless ways.

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