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Louisiana Democracy Project, Inc.
Clean Water

from US PIRG

 

THIRTY YEARS AFTER THE CLEAN WATER ACT, WE STILL HAVE A WATER QUALITY

CRISIS

In the late 1960s, it became increasingly evident that the U.S. was

facing a

water quality crisis a report by the Council on Environmental Quality

had

found that only 10% of American waters could be considered unpolluted

or even

only moderately polluted.  When the Cuyahoga River literally caught on

fire

because of the chemical content, it became clear that action had to be

taken.

Congress passed the Clean Water Act, establishing the clear goal of

making all

waterways fishable and swimmable by 1983 and eliminating all discharge

of

pollutants into waterways by 1985.

 

These goals have clearly not been met:

40% of our rivers, lakes, and estuaries are still too polluted for

safe

fishing or swimming.

Since 1988, there have been nearly 30,000 beach closings.

47 states issued fish consumption advisories in 1998, urging limited

consumption of fish from their waters due to contamination caused by

mercury,

PCBs, chlordane, dioxins, and DDT and its byproducts, which persist in

the

environment.  The 1999 PIRG Report "Fishing for Trouble" reported that

40 states

are issuing advisories for mercury alone, and 10 states have advisories

on every

single body of water within their borders.

 

AMERICA'S DUMPING GROUNDS

This report asks why we have fallen so far short of the Clean Water

Act's goals,

and examines the simple answer: polluters continue to use our waterways

as

dumping grounds. We examine two major reasons this is allowed to go on.

 

First, we examine water pollution as reported to the Toxics Release

Inventory

(TRI) for 1997.  We summarize and discuss the specific rivers and

waterways

receiving the largest amounts of toxic pollution, the states where the

most

discharge occurs, and the facilities and companies responsible for the

most

dumping. Most of this pollution is legal. Under the Clean Water Act,

the U.S.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issues permits to all public and

private

entities intending to discharge pollutants into surface waterways.

Because the

goal of the Clean Water Act is ZERO DISCHARGE, the intention was that

permits

would gradually be tightened until the permit was for zero pollution.

The

hundreds of millions of pounds of water pollution reported by

facilities in 1997

demonstrate that the government is not using the permit system as it

was

intended, but rather as a way of licensing pollution.

 

Second, we examine how EPA has failed even to enforce the too-lax

permits is

issues. We look at EPA's compliance database and summarize the

facilities that

are in significant non-compliance with their permits, discharging

amounts of

pollutants which far exceed designated limits.  We list states with the

highest

numbers of facilities in "significant non-compliance," as well as

states with

the highest percentage of facilities in "significant non-compliance."

Each state will get, in addition to the report, a 2-page fact sheet

detailing

the toxic releases to water bodies in the state, including top 5 water

bodies,

polluters, and chemicals for both overall pollution and the specific

types

examines (carcinogens, reproductive toxins, persistent toxic metals).

 

HOW TO CLEAN UP OUR WATER

We then examine exactly why the Clean Water Act has failed to clean up

water

pollution, and why the Community Right-to-Know Act (which created the

Toxics

Release Inventory) has gone far enough to promote pollution prevention.

 Most importantly, we recommend exactly how to strengthen key environmental

laws and programs in order to make sure our waterways are not America's dumping

grounds:

1)  Strengthen the Clean Water Act and its enforcement:

A.  Set mandatory minimum penalties for polluting

B.  Make sure that the penalties for polluting outweigh the economic

Profits gained by violating permits (currently, most companies save more money by violating their permit than they have to pay in fines).

C.  Strengthen citizens' right to enforce the Clean Water Act by suing

polluters

 

2)  Strengthen the Community's Right to Know

A.  Require all facilities that release toxics to report their releases

B.  Require facilities to report their use of toxic chemicals, not just

Their waste, in order to promote pollution prevention.

C.  Increase public access to EPA's database of facilities that are in

non-compliance with their permits.

 

STATES WITH THE SEXIEST STORIES

There are basically two facets of this reports story in any state: 1)

the amount of toxic pollution entering the state's waterways, and 2) the number of facilities violating their permits.  For each of these stories, there are a number of ways to package the data.  For the non-compliance data, you can use

either the number (list 1) or the percentage (2) of facilities in

significant

non-compliance during one of the five quarters analyzed in the report.

Some

states will also have a high number of facilities in significant

non-compliance

for all of the five quarters examined (3).  In terms of the amount of

pollution

entering waterways, there are several ways to tell the story.  The most

unique

aspect of this data is its packaging by waterway, so you may have a

waterway

that is among the most polluted (4 and 5).  In addition, we have state

rankings

for overall toxic releases (6) to water, as well as for several of the

most

dangerous types of pollution entering waterways (carcinogens,

reproductive

toxins, and persistent toxic metals) (7).  Each of these rankings is

provided

below.  Looking at these charts should give you the couple of basic

facts you

need to pitch the story to reports and/or coalition partners.

 

1) Number of facilities in significant non-compliance for 1 of the 5

quarters we

looked at.

# IN SNC    STATE

178 TX

141 FL

126 OH

122 NY

94  AL

82  PR

80  LA

71  PA

70  IN

63  TN

52  NC

51  MI

47  GA

47  MA

45  CT

45  MO

37  SC

34  ME

34  WI

33  IA

33  IL

33  KY

33  OK

33  VA

27  NJ

26  MN

24  AR

24  NE

24  UT

24  WA

24  WV

22  KS

22  MS

16  CA

16  NH

15  MD

15  RI

12  CO

11  OR

11  VT

11  WY

 

2) Percent of facilities in significant non-compliance in 1 of the 5

quarters.

% IN SNC            STATE

83.67%          PR

68.57%          UT

66.67%          VI

59.24%          FL

55.56%          RI

45.16%          OH

44.76%          AL

42.00%          TN

41.67%          CT

40.74%          WY

40.00%          NE

39.55%          IN

38.60%          KS

36.26%          OK

36.17%          ME

33.70%          NY

32.92%          LA

32.50%          MN

32.35%          VT

31.54%          MA

31.23%          TX

30.61%          MO

27.87%          MI

26.86%          GA

26.83%          IA

26.67%          WA

25.98%          KY

25.76%          WI

25.58%          MS

25.26%          WV

25.00%          DC

23.85%          NC

23.19%          NH

23.08%          AZ

22.60%          VA

22.02%          AR

20.59%          NM

 

(3)Number of facilities in significant non-compliance for all 5 of the

quarters

examined.

    AL:8

    AR:2

    AZ:1

    CT:7

    FL:17

    GA:4

    HI:1

    IA:1

    IL:1

    IN:11

    KS:2

    KY:4

    LA:14

    MA:6

    MD:1

    MI:16

    MN:5

    MO:1

    MT:1

    NC:6

    NE:6

    NH:1

    NJ:3

    NY:6

    OH:9

    OK:4

    PA:5

    PR:65

    RI:2

    SC:1

    TN:4

    TX:6

    UT:2

    VI:2

    VT:1

    WI:1

    WV:1

 

(4)  MOST POLLUTED RIVERS

[If your state is not on a top-polluter list, but is on or contains one

of

these rivers, you probably still have a good story]

1. Mississippi

2. Connequenessing (PA)

3. Brazos River (TX)

4. Ohio River

5. Alafia River (FL)

6. Houston Ship Channel (TX)

7. Cape Fear River (NC)

8. Savannah River (GA, SC)

9. Delaware River

10. Rock River (IL)

11. Schuylkill River (PA)

12. an unnamed canal in TX

13. Willamette River (OR)

14. Hudson River (NJ, NY)

15. Kanawha River (WV)

 

 

 (6)STATES WITH THE MOST REPORTED WATER POLLUTION:

(Some of these also rank high for specific types of pollution, like

carcinogens, reproductive toxins, or persistent toxics)

1. LA

2. PA

3. TX

4. MS

5. OH

6. FL

7. NJ

8. GA

9. NC

10. IL

11. CA

12. WV

13. VA

14. NY

15. OR

 

(7) STATES THAT ARE AT THE TOP FOR A SPECIFIC TYPE OF POLLUTION, BUT NOT FOR OVERALL POLLUTION

-- SC (#4 for carcinogens, #5 for persistent toxic metals, #13 for

reproductive toxins)

-- AL (#1 for persistent toxic metals, #10 for carcinogens)

-- SD (#1 for reproductive toxins & a 27,000-fold increase from

previous

years)

-- DE (#3 for carcinogens)

-- ME (#7 for persistent toxic metals)

-- MN (#9 for carcinogens)

-- TN (#9 for reproductive toxins, #14 for carcinogens)

-- MD (#11 for persistent toxic metals)

 

 

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