Report: Delaware River ranks fifth in U.S. in legal dumping

April 10, 2012 by  
Filed under Water Quality

More toxins are dumped into the Delaware River annually than all but four other U.S. waterways, according to a report released by an environmental group that wants tighter controls on water pollution.

The report, “Wasting Our Waterways,” compiled by Environment America, calls the Clean Water Act an “unfulfilled promise” in the 40th year of the federal law that requires a permit to discharge pollutants into navigable water.

TOXIC RANKING

The U.S. waterways with the most permitted toxic discharge in 2010, according industry reports to the EPA:

1. Ohio River 32.1*

2. Mississippi River 12.7

3. New River 12.5

4. Savannah River 9.6

5. Delaware River 6.7

States with the most toxins discharged into waterways:

1. Indiana 27.3

2. Virginia 18.3

3. Nebraska 14.7

4. Texas 14.5

7. Pennsylvania 10.1

12. New Jersey 8.5

* millions of pounds

Source: Environment America

It cites data submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and says 10.1 million pounds of toxins were dumped into Pennsylvania waterways in 2010, ranking that state seventh. In New Jersey, 8.5 million pounds of toxins were discharged into its waterways, the 12th most of any state.

Those figures include 6.7 million pounds of toxins dumped into the Delaware River, which trailed only four other U.S. waterways.

“The problem is that government agencies allow these discharges to continue by issuing permits to pollute, a perverse interpretation of the Clean Water Act,” said Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. “This has to stop if we want to provide a healthy, economically sound Delaware River for everyone.”

The data were reported to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory by industries that are permitted to discharge the toxins.

John Martin, a spokesman for EPA Region 2, which includes New Jersey, said the agency is pleased organizations are using the data “to make industries more transparent and to give citizens groups ” more information.

“We do a lot of enforcement in regard to ” tougher permitting,” Martin said. “We’re always looking to make sure that the waters of the U.S. remain clean and protect human health.”

Bob Considine, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, said the department is skeptical of the numbers because the report doesn’t say when and how the pollutants were counted.

He said the department “works every day to ensure that companies are in compliance within the rules of their discharge permits, and it takes appropriate enforcement actions when they are not.”

But the Riverkeeper Network and New Jersey Environment, the Garden State chapter of the group that did the study, want tougher standards. They’re calling for industries to reduce their discharges, for the Clean Water Act to apply to all waterways and the EPA to set pollution limits that would get stricter over time with stiff penalties.

The report says 226 million pounds of toxins were discharged into 1,400 U.S. waterways in 2010.

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