Just back from kayaking on the Oconee River, sitting on the launch-ramp waiting for my ride, I perused the NYTimes on my iphone. There I found this massive investigation of water pollution:
Almost four decades ago, Congress passed the Clean Water Act to force polluters to disclose the toxins they dump into waterways and to give regulators the power to fine or jail offenders. States have passed pollution statutes of their own. But in recent years, violations of the Clean Water Act have risen steadily across the nation, an extensive review of water pollution records by The New York Times found.
In the last five years alone, chemical factories, manufacturing plants and other workplaces have violated water pollution laws more than half a million times. The violations range from failing to report emissions to dumping toxins at concentrations regulators say might contribute to cancer, birth defects and other illnesses.
However, the vast majority of those polluters have escaped punishment. State officials have repeatedly ignored obvious illegal dumping, and the Environmental Protection Agency, which can prosecute polluters when states fail to act, has often declined to intervene.
The Times quotes one recent study that found 19.5 million of us get sick each year from drinking water contaminated with parasites, bacteria or viruses.
In Wisconsin and California, farmers spray liquefied animal feces onto fields. From there it has seeps into wells, causing severe infections.
In Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Indiana, pesticides are linked to birth defects and fertility problems.
New York, Rhode Island, Ohio and California are among those states where heavy rain causes sewer systems to overflow into rivers and onto beaches.
In New Jersey, New York, Arizona and Massachusetts it’s high concentrations of tetrachloroethylene, a dry cleaning solvent linked to kidney damage and cancer.
Records analyzed by The Times indicate that the Clean Water Act has been violated more than 506,000 times since 2004, by more than 23,000 companies and other facilities, according to reports submitted by polluters themselves. Companies sometimes test what they are dumping only once a quarter, so the actual number of days when they broke the law is often far higher. And some companies illegally avoid reporting their emissions, say officials, so infractions go unrecorded.
The Clean Water Act is was one of the most successful pieces of legislation ever. Does anyone doubt that this is a direct result of the anti-regulation Bush era?
Probably those same people who doubt deregulation of the financial markets cased the collapse of our banking system do. That’s dogma over data. The Times amply demonstrates the connection.
You can find water polluters near you in this interactive database of water polluters. Search by state, city or zip code. There are 117 violations and not a single fine levied near me. Here’s a state-by-state breakdown of the date and responses The Times has received from 39 states. Their Toxic Waters archive has more.
And while we’re on the topic of polluted water, the AP reports today that the dangerous staph bacteria, MRSA, has been found in sand and water for the first time at five public beaches along the coast of Washington. Scientists believe the state is not the only one with this problem.