(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Industrial facilities dumped over 17 million pounds of toxic chemicals into Indiana's waterways in 2012, making Indiana's waterways the most polluted 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 half of Indiana's streams and waterways across the nation.
"Indiana's waterways should be clean - for swimming, drinking, and supporting wildlife," said Ally Fields, Clean Water Advocate with Environment America's 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.
Other major findings of the report include:
Indiana ranked fourth in the nation for pounds of cancer-causing chemicals released into its waterways and first in overall toxic chemicals.
The 14,727,205 pounds of toxic releases dumped into the Lower Ohio River-Little Pigeon River watershed make it the most heavily polluted watershed in the country.
The AK Steel Corporation mill in Rockport was the biggest pollution facility in Indiana, dumping 14.5 million pounds of toxic pollution into our waterways. Furthermore, Rockport Works was the single biggest polluting facility in the country.
The Environment America Research and Policy Center 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 Indiana's waterways include chromium, which causes cancer, and developmental toxins, such as lead and nickel 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's Research and Policy Center is highlighting one part of the solution that could actually become law this year: Restoring Clean Water Act protections to the waterways that feed Indiana's great waters.
As a result of court cases brought by polluters, more than 35,000 miles of streams in Indiana and the drinking water for more than 1,700,000 Hoosiers' 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's Research and Policy Center and its allies, this spring, the EPA finally proposed a rule to close the loopholes that have left Indiana'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.
"Looking at the data from our report today, you can see why polluters might oppose it," said Ally Fields. "That's why we are working with farmers, small businesses, and regular people all across the country to make sure our voices for clean water are heard in Washington, D.C. The future of the Ohio 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.
"Indiana's waterways shouldn't be a polluter's dumping ground," said Fields. "If we want the Ohio River to be clean for future generations of Hoosiers, we must restore Clean Water Act protections to all of our waterways, and we must do it now."
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