Virginia was listed as the second-worst state for toxic chemicals dumped into its waterways, according to research released today by Environment Virginia, a statewide environmental advocacy group.
More than 18 million pounds of toxic chemicals including arsenic, mercury and benzene have been released annually into Virginia’s waterways in recent years, states the study “Wasting our Waterways: Industrial Toxic Pollution and the Unfulfilled Promise of the Clean Water Act.”
“Virginia’s waterways are a polluter’s paradise right now,” said Laura Anderson, field organizer with Environment Virginia.
Additional findings through the report list that 377,090 pounds of toxic pollution were dumped into the Shenandoah River in 2010; Virginia polluters alone dumped 203,480 pounds into the Potomac River; and other states dumped additional toxic pollution for a total of 402,261 pounds in the Potomac in 2010.
“The Shenandoah River serves to remind us what happens when industrial sites are allowed to pollute,” said Jeff Kelble, Shenandoah Riverkeeper, in a prepared statement. “Before we had the Clean Water Act in 1972, industries contaminated the river with mercury, PCB and other toxic chemicals. People are still unable to eat fish on over 100 miles of the Shenandoah because these toxic chemicals don’t break down or go away.”
Five of Virginia’s rivers New River, Parker Creek, Sandy Bottom Branch, James River, and York River—were listed in the reports 50 worst waterways in the nation for toxic pollution.
Indiana was found to be the worst offender of toxic pollution in its waterways.
The report was compiled over several weeks using the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory for 2010, the most recent data available, said Anderson.
Nationally, 226 million pounds of toxic chemicals were discharged into 1,400 waterways.
Environment Virginia’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 reduced fertility. Exposure to these chemicals is linked to cancer, developmental disorders, and reproductive disorders.