5 U.S. Rivers That Need Your Help
This past June marked the 43rd anniversary of the day the Cuyahoga River caught fire in Cleveland, Ohio.
For many, it’s hard to imagine that it was not so long ago that a U.S. river could be so polluted that it would burst into flame, but that’s exactly what happened on June 22, 1969. The incident stands as a reminder of how far we’ve come – and how far we have to go still.
The passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972 would change the face of the future of U.S. rivers and other water bodies and stands as one of President Nixon’s more positive legacies. Even so, politicians are arguably more focused on the financial gain of their constituencies (and subsequently the length of their own terms) than safeguarding our streams and rivers. This presents a situation where the protections are constantly threatened and therefore make it necessary for citizens to do what they can to protect their national waterways.
Below is a list of 5 U.S. rivers that need your help to get clean and stay clean whether the work is done at the polls, on the water’s edge, or both. (Toxic discharge numbers for 2010 provided by Environment New Jersey and Frontier Group.)
1. Ohio River (32,111,718 lbs/yr)
The Ohio River is reputedly the most polluted river in the U.S., according to a recent study by Environment America.
It’s hard to argue that hands-on help for the Ohio River would do much good in the face of such a mammoth amount of pollution, but apathy is not the answer. Many argue that restoring the original powers of the Clean Water Act, which has been whittled away over the last 40 years by legislative loopholes designed to benefit corporations, is the primary way to combat the tide of toxic discharge that is currently allowed to seep into this majestic waterway each year.
2. Mississippi River (12,739,749 lbs/yr)
The Mighty Mississippi may be the inspiration for some of America’s greatest literary works, but it is also clogged with toxic discharge pumped into it by 10 neighboring states.
Unfortunately, pollution in the Mississippi is only a fraction of the problem. A major threat that grows with every pound of waste dumped into the river is the growth of a “dead zone” in the delta where the water pours into the Gulf of Mexico. An overabundance of nitrogen and phosphorus from runoff produced by agribusinesses along the river’s upstream shores is literally killing all life in the region. Petitioning to limit the use and discharge of these chemicals is essential in stopping this ecological disaster before it’s too late.
3. New River (12,529,948 lbs/yr)
Even more frightening than the amount of toxic discharge into the New River may be the type of toxic discharge involved -particularly the kind originating from Virginia.
A study by Environment Virginia lists the state as the second-worst in the nation when it comes to the toxic chemicals it dumps into the New River. Arsenic, mercury and benzene top the list along with many other chemicals known to cause cancer and birth defects. This problem has surfaced time and again in connection with the region’s coal industry and the toxic waste water byproduct it produces. More emphasis on using clean energy by all citizens may be the only way to curb this particular type of discharge.
4. Savannah River (9,624,090 lbs/yr)
A recent switch from coal-fired power to a biomass co-generation facility on the Savannah River helps highlight the extraordinary water costs associated with using conventional energy technologies.
The former facility required drawing 35-45 million gallons of water a day from the Savannah for energy production, a number that does not account for the resulting pollution from these kinds of coal-fired power plants. The change at this location to biomass power generation is a response to the call for more renewable energy sources in the U.S. and stands as an example of progress -however, more needs to be done on the Savannah and other waterways before victory can be declared.
5. Delaware River (6,719,436 lbs/yr)
New Jersey is renowned for its industrial district and at the same time criticized for its reputation of putting profit ahead of pollution prevention.
The Delaware River is the main causeway that bears the brunt of the Garden State’s manufacturing hub, which includes chemical giant DuPont Chambers Works and the Conoco Phillips Bay Refinery. Regulatory concessions make it possible for these companies to dump literally millions of pounds of pollutants into the Delaware every year and more needs to be done on the banks of this once-great river to save it.
This guest post has been provide by: James Madeiros who writes for Seametrics, a company which develops water measurement technology to help conserve the world’s water resources.
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