Two million pounds of pollutants dumped into Minnesota’s waterways


More than two million pounds of toxic chemicals were dumped into Minnesota’s waterways during 2007, according to a new report (pdf) by Environment Minnesota. 3M was by far the most prolific dumper of pollutants, with more than 1 million pounds discharged into the Mississippi River.

Nationwide at least 232 million pounds of toxic chemicals were released into the country’s waterways, according to the report. Indiana led the nation in total volume of toxic discharges, with 27 million pounds of pollutant’s released into the state’s waterways. Virginia, Nebraska, Texas and Louisiana rounded out the top five.

“Pollutant releases from factories, power plants and other industrial facilities are a key contributing factor to the pollution that leaves 46 percent of the nation’s assessed rivers and streams and 61 percent of its assessed lakes unsafe for fishing, swimming or other uses,” the report notes.

Nitrate compounds, which can cause serious health problems for children when found in drinking water, were responsible for 90 percent of the pollutants dumped into the nation’s waterways. But more than 1.5 million pounds of chemicals linked to cancer were released into streams, rivers and lakes. In addition, 450,000 pounds of substances linked to developmental disorders and roughly 266,000 pounds of chemicals linked to reproductive disorders were discharged into the country’s waterways. The Mississippi River was among the top four recipients for each of these categories.

The Ohio River received the highest overall volume of toxic discharges, followed by the New and Mississippi rivers. More than 12 million pounds of pollutants were dumped into the Mississippi River in 2007. It was the only Minnesota river to earn the dubious distinction of being among the nation’s 20 most polluted waterways.

The data is culled from the federal government’s 2007 Toxic Release Inventory. Industrial facilities reported the release of 244 different toxic chemicals or classes of toxic pollutants into the country’s waterways during that year.

Environment Minnesota is calling on the federal government to more stringently enforce the Clean Water Act. Most notably the advocacy group wants the federal law applied to all the country’s waterways. Owing to court rulings, some small bodies of water are currently exempt from federal environmental regulations. Minnesota Rep. Jim Oberstar has championed the Clean Water Restoration Act, which would beef up federal enforcement of pollution prohibitions.

“There are common-sense steps that should be taken to turn the tide against toxic pollution of our waters,” said Samantha Chadwick, of Environment Minnesota, in a press release announcing the report’s findings. “We need to clean up our water now, and we need the federal government to act to protect our health and our environment.”