An environmental organization recently released a report giving the Mississippi River the distinction as the second-most toxic river in the United States.
The organization, Environment America, stated in their "2012 Wasting Our Waterways" report the Mississippi River is second only to the Ohio River in the amount of toxic discharges. According to the group's survey, in 2010 the river received a total of 12,739,749 pounds of toxic discharge from 10 states that border the waterway. Nationally, 226 million pounds of toxic chemicals were discharged into 1,400 waterways across the country.
However, Tennessee ranked in the middle as far as overall toxic discharge, placing 22nd in the country. Leading the nation was Indiana with 27,366,513 pounds of toxic discharge into its waterways. Arizona had the least amount of reported toxic discharge with only 69 pounds of toxic release.
The report uses figures from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), which is the most comprehensive source of information available on the industrial release of toxic substances to America's environment. Unfortunately, the TRI only covers industrial facilities, which means other sources of toxic pollution, such as agricultural facilities and wasterwater treatment from municipalities are left unreported.
Environment America states the pollution from industrial facilities is a leading cause of water-quality problems in rivers, streams and lakes. The EPA has stated that industrial discharges are thought to be responsible for threatening or fouling water quality in more than 14,000 miles of rivers and more than 220,000 acres of lakes, ponds and estuaries nationwide.
Tennessee, Missouri, Wisconsin and Minnesota were the states along the Mississippi River with the least amount of toxic discharge with less than 1 million pounds each.
Tennessee's second-largest river, the Tennessee River, ranked 14th among the nation's most toxic waterways. The states of Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee all contributed a total amount of 2,810,828 pounds of toxic discharge to the Tennessee River in 2010.
Reportedly, industrial facilities around the country discharged approximately 1.5 million pounds of chemicals linked to cancer to more than 1,000 waterways during 2010. The Mississippi River, Ohio River, and Tennessee River have been reported to suffer large releases of carcinogens. Pulp and paper mills, gold mines and chemical manufacturers are said to be the industries that released the greatest volume of carcinogenic chemicals in 2010.
Environment America stated in a release the United States should revise its strategy for regulating toxic chemicals to encourage the development and use of safer alternatives. Specifically, the nation should:
* Require chemical manufacturers to test all chemicals for their safety and submit the results of that testing to the government and the public.
* Regulate chemicals based on their intrinsic capacity to cause harm to the environment or health, rather than basing regulation on resource-intensive and flawed efforts to determine "safe" levels of exposure to those chemicals.
* Require industries to disclose the amount of toxic chemicals they use in their facilities - safeguarding local residents' right to know about potential public health threats in their community and creating incentives for industry to reduce its use of toxic chemicals.
* Require safer alternatives to toxic chemicals, where alternatives exist.
* Phase out the worst toxic chemicals.