Saturday, July 5, 2014

Savannah River: A Polluted, Still Safe Water?

AUGUSTA, GA - A recent report done by the Environment Georgia research and policy center is calling the Savannah river the 3rd most polluted river in the nation. The Savannah River falls just behind the Ohio-Pigeon River on the list. The study says, middle Savannah River, has the worst pollution. This includes Augusta and below.

The study pulls their information from the Environmental Protection Agency who pulls number from industries. These industries dump 5 million pounds of toxic waste into the Savannah River every year, the survey reports.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), toxic discharges from industrial facilities are responsible for polluting more than 17,000 miles of rivers and about 210,000 acres of lakes, ponds and estuaries nationwide.

“Georgia’s rivers should be clean – for swimming, drinking, and supporting wildlife,” said Jennette Gayer, Director of Environment Georgia Research & 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.”

Additionally, with more than 10 million pounds of toxic chemicals being dumped into Georgia’s waterways in 2012, the state was ranked eighth worst in the nation in the report by Environment Georgia Research & Policy Center.

Major findings of the report include:

* The Savannah River is ranked 3rd in the nation for the highest amount of total toxic discharges with 5,025,161 pounds discharged in 2010.

*In the South Atlantic-Gulf region, polluters dumped 37,715,2113 pounds of toxic chemicals into our waterways, making this watershed the 2nd most polluted in the nation.

*DSM Chemicals North America Inc. -in Augusta- was the biggest polluter in GA dumping 4,085,115 pounds of toxic pollution into the Middle Savannah River.
  (The company agreed to pay $800,000 in fines to resolve allegations it under-reported its toxic releases  by millions of pounds from 2003 to 2006, from news reports in 2010)

*Industrial facilities discharged approximately 55,565 pounds of chemicals linked to cancer into Georgia’s rivers—the 10th highest amount in the country.

The only watersheds found to have higher volumes of toxic pollution than the Savannah were the Lower Ohio River-Little Pigeon River, which runs through Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky, and the New River in Virginia.

The South Atlantic-Gulf region had more than 37 million pounds of toxic chemicals dumped in waterways, according to the report.

Approximately 1.4 million people rely on the Savannah River for drinking water.

About 170,000 people across the river in South Carolina obtain water through the Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority, which draws from the Savannah River at mile 39.

The water is treated and safe to drink, according to governmental entities, but is not treated for comsuption everywhere.

In Richmond County during the year, both the groundwater and surface water plants won the Gold Award that was presented by the Georgia Water and Pollution Control Association. This Award is given annually to recognize water treatment plants that operate the entire year without any violations and meet or exceed both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Georgia Environmental Protection Division regulations, is posted in the city of Augusta website.

Also, the Augusta Utilities Department announces that MWH Americas Inc. has been awarded a contract to design and construct a 15 million gallon a day water treatment plant. The facility will include a new raw water pumping station, reservoirs, and treatment plant and will take approximately 30 months to complete after construction begins.

“Augusta Utilities has tested for Crypto and has never detected it in our drinking water. Crypto is a microscopic organism that, when ingested, can result in diarrhea, fever, and other gastrointestinal symptoms. The organism is in all rivers and streams and come from animal wastes in the watershed. Crypto is eliminated by an effective treatment combination including sedimentation, filtration, and disinfection.”

Residents can learn more about the treatment processes for city water services by going to the agencies’ websites.

The report by Environment Georgia found some of the chemicals released into waterways in the state included cancer-causing chemicals, chemicals that persist in the environment and chemicals with the potential to cause reproductive problems.

Environment Georgia recommends policies that include requiring industry to switch from toxic chemicals to safer ones and is calling on the Obama administration to finalize a proposed rule with the EPA clarifying that the Clean Water Act applies to headwater streams, intermittent waterways, isolated wetlands and other waterways.

The data in this report do not cover the entire volume of toxic chemicals released to the environment – just the ones released to surface waterways by industrial facilities that report to the U.S. EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory. To expand understanding of toxic releases, policymakers should:

- Close loopholes that allow major polluters to avoid reporting their toxic releases. For example, the oil and gas industry should be required to report releases of fracking fluid and drilling waste to the Toxics Release Inventory.

- Ensure the public is informed about the storage of toxic chemicals, especially in light of the toxic spill that contaminated drinking water for 300,000 people in West Virginia in January 2014.

Pollution Getting Worse In Decades
Young children, their grandparents, and people already weakened by illness are more likely to become seriously ill or die. Scientists believe as many as 3.5 million Americans get sick each year after swimming, boating, fishing, or otherwise touching water they thought was safe.

A 1998 study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology blamed water pollution for one-third of all reported gastroenteritis cases and two-thirds of all ear infections. So…just which ten rivers are typically the most polluted? Of course the list changes from year to year, but the ten below typically rank high.

On the list below you will see the name of the river and the states most responsible for the polluted conditions of the river.

1. Mississippi River TN, AR, LA, MO, IL, MN, WI, IA, KY, MS

2. Pacific Ocean OR, HI, CA

3. Ohio River IL, IN, OH, KY, WV, PA

4. Tennessee River KY, TN, AL 5. Houston Ship Channel TX

6. Ward Cove AK

7. Savannah River GA, SC (3 in 2012)

8. Delaware River DE, PA, NJ

9.Thames River CT

—> Edited by Anibal Ibarra


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