By Pat Loeb
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Pennsylvania has the nation’s seventh-highest volume of toxic chemicals being released into its waterways, according to a new report. New Jersey ranks 14th. Now, a coalition of environmental groups is urging greater protection for local waterways.
David Masur of Penn Environment stood on the banks of the Schuylkill River near Boathouse Row, overlooking a waterfall– a scenic spot to deliver a grim message.
“Polluters dumped more than 2.3 million pounds of toxic chemicals,” he said, “making this watershed the 17th most polluted local watershed in America.”
The Delaware River ranked even higher with 12.5 million toxic releases. Dupont Chambers Works in New Jersey, alone, accounted for a sixth of the total.
Masur’s figures came from the polluters themselves, in reports they file with the federal government under the Clean Water Act.
The Clean Water Act, he noted, was designed to eventually reduce pollutants. But forty years later, he says, chemicals pour into rivers and streams and polluters are trying to chip away at the Clean Water Act through the courts.
“The goal of that law is to have zero emissions into our rivers and streams, and here we are allowing companies each year to legally dump tens of millions of pounds of pollution into our waterways,” he said.
Masur hopes to get a grass-roots counter-balance, demanding clean water. “If state regulators set up a timeline to ratchet down those emissions, come up with safer alternatives, we would see these numbers drop,” he said.
Masur notes the figures don’t include chemicals used in fracking for natural gas because energy companies were able to exempt the process from the Clean Water Act. He also says it’s possible illegal dumping might add to the total.