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206 Million Pounds of Chemicals Hit Our Waterways in One Year

Sep 21, 2014 02:19 PM EDT

A new report prepared by the Environment America Research and Policy Center (EARPC) has revealed than in 2012 alone, more than 206 million pounds of toxic chemicals found were dumped into United States waterways despite efforts by local officials and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to prevent this harmful action.

The report, dramatically named  the "Wasting Our Waters" report, comes as the EPA considers a new ruling that would add Clean Water Act (CWA) protections to about two million miles of critical waterways across the nation. This move, which would redefine "waters of the United States," is sternly opposed to by a great deal of private land owners and the agricultural sector, for fear that the CWA would be used to control private waterways and hurt business. But EPA officials argue that total control isn't their aim, and instead simply want to prevent harmful practices and highlight alternative and greener solutions.

You can read an in-depth summary of the ongoing controversy here.

However, despite the true goals of the EPA, it is undeniable that harmful and difficult to control harmful toxins are indeed still slipping into US waterways. A US Geological Survey (USGS) study recently published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology details how private pesticide use is dumping a unsettlingly high concentration of harmful toxins into urban waters, posing a huge threat to local aquatic ecosystems.

Now this latest EARPC report reveals that nearly 17 million pounds of toxins are dumped each year into the Upper Mississippi River alone. In a survey of toxin concentrations across the US, it was also found that the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay also had 8.39 million and 3.23 million pounds of toxins respectively, making for the three key bodies of water most heavily polluted by local industry and agricultural practices (pesticide runoff).
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The report also found Tyson foods to be the leading contributor to US water pollution "with a total of 18,556,479 lbs - 9 percent of the nationwide total of toxic discharges."

"Looking at the data from our report today, you can see why polluters might oppose any efforts to better protect our waters," Ally Fields, a clean water advocate with EARPC, said in a recent statement. "That's why we are working with farmers, small businesses, and hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans to make sure our voices for clean water are heard in Washington, D.C. The future of the waterways we love - from the Chesapeake Bay to the Colorado River - hangs in the balance."

Still, it's important to remember that the EARPC is not an unbiased party. The organization is a strong supporter of the EPAs next proposed move.

"It's high time that we restore protections for the drinking water for 1 in 3 Americans," Fields added in the interest of full transparency. "That's why we are releasing this report as part of a broad effort to educate the public and engage elected officials to weigh in with the Obama administration in support of its Clean Water Act rulemaking."

A window for public comment on the "Waters of the US" act will close on Monday, October 20, 2014.

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