The following is an edited press release from Environment California.
Environment California released a report today stating that industrial facilities dumped 2.6 million pounds of toxic chemicals into California’s waterways in 2010.
The report, Wasting Our Waterways: Industrial Toxic Pollution and the Unfulfilled Promise of the Clean Water Act also reports that 226 million pounds of toxic chemicals were discharged into 1,400 waterways across the country.
Elected officials in Los Angeles joined Environment California in calling for stronger policies to protect clean water.
“California’s waterways are a polluter’s paradise right now," said Sean Carroll, Federal Field Associated with Environment California. "Polluters dump 2.6 million pounds of toxic chemicals into California’s lakes, rivers and streams every year. We must turn the tide of toxic pollution by restoring Clean Water Act protections to our waterways.”
The Santa Monica Bay ranked 2nd among waterways in the state for the highest amount of total toxic discharges, with over 750,000 pounds discharged in 2010. Congressman Henry Waxman, who represents the bay, added, “This report is a wake-up call. Too much toxic pollution is being dumped into California’s waters. New efforts are needed to ensure that all waterways are protected.”
Industrial facilities also dumped chemicals linked to cancer, developmental disorders, and reproductive disorders into the Los Angeles River and also into the Dominguez Channel which extends from southern LA to the Port of Los Angeles. Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard has been a long-time leader in efforts to clean-up local waterways.
“As a native Angeleno, I have always believed in the vision of a vibrant and ‘green’ Los Angeles River,” said Representative Roybal-Allard. “The Los Angeles River has the potential to be a significant environmental asset to our community, and it’s restoration and preservation will help both the economy and the environment,” Roybal-Allard added.
Environment California’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. Among the toxic chemicals discharged nationwide by facilities are arsenic, mercury, and benzene. Exposure to these chemicals is linked to cancer, developmental disorders, and reproductive disorders.
“There are common-sense steps that we can take to turn the tide against toxic pollution of our waters,” added Carroll.
Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz has introduced a resolution supporting President Obama's efforts to strengthen the Clean Water Act back to its pre-2001 levels. Councilmember Koretz said, "Protecting our drinking water is an essential governmental priority. That's why I proudly support President Obama's plan to close the loopholes in the Clean Water Act, so that we might keep people across the United States safe from those who would pollute waterways and endanger the public's health and well-being."
In order to curb the toxic pollution threatening Angelenos’ waterways, Environment California recommends the following:
- Pollution Prevention: Industrial facilities should reduce their toxic discharges to waterways by switching from hazardous chemicals to safer alternatives.
- Protect all waters: The Obama administration should finalize guidelines and conduct a rulemaking to clarify that the Clean Water Act applies to all of our waterways - including the 139,598 miles of streams in California and 7.3 million Californians’ drinking water for which jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act has been called into question as a result of two polluter-driven Supreme Court decisions in the last decade.
- Tough permitting and enforcement: EPA and state agencies should issue permits with tough, numeric limits for each type of toxic pollution discharged, ratchet down those limits over time, and enforce those limits with credible penalties, not just warning letters.
“The bottom line is that California’s waterways shouldn’t be a polluter’s paradise, they should just be paradise. We need clean water now, and we are counting on the federal government to act to protect our health and our environment,” concluded Carroll.
The Environment California report documents and analyzes the dangerous levels of pollutants discharged to America’s waters by compiling toxic chemical releases reported to the U.S. EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory for 2010, the most recent data available.