Wasting Our Waterways: A Gulf Perspective

Last month, Environment America released its Wasting Our Waterways report, examining the astronomical amount of toxic pollutants that were discharged by industrial facilities into the waterways of the United States in 2012. 206 million pounds of toxic chemicals to be exact. Though the report highlights the multitude of problems with toxic discharges in watersheds big and small throughout the nation, some of the most staggering statistics hit just a bit closer to home.At least one of the Gulf states managed to rank in the top five of nearly every statistical analysis, from toxic releases, to toxicity weighted pounds, to cancer causing and developmental toxins. Using the federal government’s Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), which (only) requires industrial facilities to (self) report releases of chemicals found on the TRI list, Environmental America generated numerous different data sets. To illustrate the toxic soup the Gulf finds itself in, the report notes that Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama rank in the top five of Toxic Releases by volume, and Mississippi joins their ranks to round out the top four states for toxic releases by toxicity.The report highlights the fact that many activities are not required to report to the TRI, including the oil and gas industry, agricultural fertilizer and nitrate runoff, and chemical storage facilities. This means that fracking processes, despite the fact that some of the chemicals used in such activities would be reportable when used by another industry, go un-checked by the TRI and the door to more chemical spills such as that at the Elk River earlier this year, remains wide open.What does this mean for a region with an already damaged coast, with some of the highest toxic pollution in the country, and it being center of the oil and gas industry? As Louisiana considers expanding fracking activities throughout the state and the possibility of accepting for disposal fracking wastewater being shipped down the Mississippi from the Northeast, it is imperative that our waterways receive the protection they deserve.Regretfully, this report comes to little surprise for those that live here, and with major industries not even reporting how much they pollute, the numbers are probably quite worse. This is why the GRN and others must continue to hold polluters accountable and ensure that Gulf States are upholding the Clean Water Act.The full report can be found here:http://www.environmentamerica.org/news/ame/206-million-pounds-toxic-chemicals-dumped-america%E2%80%99s-waterwaysCaitrin Reilly is a GRN Legal Intern.

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