Industrial facilities dumped 10,506,483 pounds of toxic chemicals into Nebraska’s waterways in 2012, making Nebraska’s waterways the 6th worst in the nation, according to a new report by Environment America Research and Policy Center.
The “Wasting Our Waterways” report comes as the Environmental Protection Agency considers a new rule to restore Clean Water Act protections to more than 60,000 miles of streams in Nebraska and waterways across the nation.
“Nebraska’s rivers should be clean – for swimming, drinking, and supporting wildlife,” said Alex Trebatoski, the campaign coordinator with Environment America Research and Policy Center. “But too often, our waters have become a dumping ground for polluters. The first step to curb this tide of toxic pollution is to restore Clean Water Act protections to all our waterways.”
The Environment America Research and Policy Center report on toxic pollutants discharged to America’s waters is based on data reported by polluting facilities to the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory for 2012, the most recent data available.
Major findings of the report include:
The Blackbird watershed is ranked 5th in the nation for highest amount of total toxic discharges, with 4,372,706 pounds discharged in 2012.
The Lower Platte watershed is ranked 6th in the nation for highest amount of total toxic discharges, with 3,726,866 pounds discharged in 2012.
Tyson Fresh Meats Inc. WWTP was the biggest toxic polluter by volume in Nebraska, dumping 4,220,510 pounds of toxic pollution into our waterways.
Environment America Research and Policy Center’s report summarizes discharges of cancer-causing chemicals, chemicals that persist in the environment, and chemicals with the potential to cause reproductive problems ranging from birth defects to infertility. The toxic chemicals dumped in Nebraska include Chromium and Chromium compounds, which cause cancer, and developmental toxins, such as Lead and Lead compounds, which can affect the way children grow, learn, and behave.
The report recommends several steps to curb this tide of toxic pollution – including requiring industry to switch from toxic chemicals to safer alternatives. But Environment America Research and Policy Center is highlighting one part of the solution that could actually become law this year: Restoring the Clean Water Act protections to all Nebraska’s streams.
As a result of court cases brought by polluters, 62,811 miles of streams in Nebraska and half a million Nebraskans’ drinking water are now at risk of having no protection from pollution under the federal Clean Water Act. Following years of advocacy by Environment America Research and Policy Center and its allies, this spring, the EPA finally proposed a rule to close the loopholes that have left Nebraska’s waterways and risk and restore Clean Water Act protections.
But the clean water rule is being vigorously opposed by a wide range of polluting industries, including the Nebraska Farm Bureau.
“Looking at the data from our report today, you can see why polluters might oppose it,” said Trebatoski. “That’s why we are working with farmers, small businesses, and thousands of ordinary citizens to make sure our voices for clean water are heard in Washington, D.C. The future of Platte River hangs in the balance.”
The public comment period on the clean water rule began the day before Earth Day, and it is still open right now.
“Nebraska’s rivers shouldn’t be a polluter’s dumping ground,” said Trebatoski. “If we want the Platte River to be clean for future generations of Nebraskans, we must restore Clean Water Act protections to all of our waterways, and we must do it now.”