Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Toxic Commonwealth

With over 15 million pounds of toxins dumped into the Commonwealth's waterways, Virginia "ranks" among the worst states for pollution from industrial plants posing a threat to human health and the environment. While we all think of southwest Virginia as being pristine wilderness, the New River ranked #3 in the nation for toxic discharges with 12,529,948 pounds purposely dumped in the water. The Roanoke River came in at #15 in the nation with 2,762,330 pounds of toxic discharges. Sadly, the facts and figures about toxic discharges don't tell the whole story - industrial facilities must report Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) only if they exceed certain limits. Smaller plants may never report anything, yet their discharges get stirred into the witches' brew that has become our streams, lakes, and rivers.

The major contributor of toxins in the New River is the Radford Army Ammunition Plant which dumps over 12,000,000 pounds of toxins into the water. That's the second highest toxin discharge in the nation.  Bringing death to our hometowns....

Nationwide, the largest category of releases are nitrates which may be toxic "particularly to infants consuming formula made with nitrate-laden drinking water...." And, there are many other sources of nitrates (agricultural runoff, over application of lawn fertilizers, etc.) that are NOT included in the TRI.

Of course the problem isn't only found in the Toxic Commonwealth (but unfortunately we are one of the big uglies) but in every state from sea to shining sea:
  • Pollution from just five states—Indiana, Virginia, Nebraska, Texas, and Georgia—accounted for nearly forty percent of the total amount of pollution dumped into our waterways in 2010
  • Food and beverage manufacturing (slaughterhouses, rendering plants, etc.), primary metals manufacturing, chemical plants, and petroleum refineries were some of the largest polluters. AK Steel dumped the most toxic pollution—nearly 30 million pounds—into our waterways in 2010.
  • In 2010, industries discharged approximately 1.5 million pounds of cancer-causing chemicals, like arsenic, chromium, and benzene, into America’s waterways. Nevada’s Burns Creek received the largest volume of carcinogens in 2010, while neighboring Mill Creek placed third.
  • Nitrates accounted for nearly 90 percent of the total volume of discharges to waterways reported in 2010. Nitrates are toxic, particularly to infants consuming formula made with nitrate-laden drinking water, who may be susceptible to methemoglobinemia, or “blue baby” syndrome, a disease that reducesthe ability of blood to carry oxygen throughout the body.
So, I guess the question is: are the governor, the General Assembly, and representatives like Bob Goodlatte and Morgan Griffith looking out for the people of Virginia or for the profits of their big donors? You decide. But, don't drink the water... or swim in it either!

For more information visit Environment America and read their report, Wasting Our Waterways 2012 Toxic Industrial Pollution and the Unfulfilled Promise of the Clean Water Act.

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