Report: Pa. 7th in Nation in Toxic Substances Released into Waterways

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
22 March 2012
By Don Hopey

Forty years ago the federal Clean Water Act set a goal to make all of America's rivers, streams, lakes and estuaries "fishable and swimable" by 1985.

But that didn't happen. A new report shows some of the nation's biggest water pollution problems are stubbornly persistent and are found throughout Pennsylvania and surrounding states.

According to the report released in Pittsburgh today by the PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center, 226 million pounds of toxic chemicals were discharged and dumped into the nations waterways in 2010, fouling 14,000 miles of rivers and streams and more than 220,000 acres of lakes, ponds and estuaries.

The 48-page report, titled "Wasting our Waterways 2012," found that despite the federal goal to eliminate toxic discharges into waterways by 1985, 53 percent of assessed rivers and streams and 69 percent of lakes remain unsafe for swimming, fishing and other uses.

Pennsylvania ranked seventh in the total amount of toxic substances released into its waters in 2010, with 10.1 million pounds. Indiana was first, followed by Virginia, Nebraska, Texas, Georgia, and Louisiana.

Alabama, Ohio and North Carolina rounded out the top 10.

Some of the Pittsburgh region's best-known rivers were among the biggest recipients of the toxic chemical discharges, according to the report, which is based on discharge statistics submitted by industries to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Toxic Release Inventory.

The Ohio River ranked first among the nation's waterways for total toxic discharges, with 31.1 million pounds, followed by the Mississippi River, the New River in north Carolina and Virginia, the Savanah River in Georgia and South Carolina, and the Delaware River in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

The Monongahela River ranked 17th nationwide for total toxic discharges.

The Ohio River also ranked third for reproductive toxicant discharges, fourth for cancer-causing discharges and fifth for developmental toxicants.

West Virginia's waterways ranked first in the amount of developmental toxins discharged and second in reproductive toxics, with the Kanawha River ranked first in the nation for the amount of reproductive toxics discharged and second for developmental toxicants.

Don Hopey: or 412-263-1983.