Environment California Research & Policy Center
Vallejo—Industrial facilities dumped 2.4 million pounds of toxic chemicals into California’s waterways statewide in 2012, making California’s waterways the 26th worst in the nation according to a new report by Environment California Research & Policy Center.
The “Wasting Our Waterways” report comes as the Environmental Protection Agency considers a new rule to restore Clean Water Act protections to thousands of waterways in California and across the nation.
“California’s waterways should be clean for swimming, drinking, and supporting wildlife,” said Nathan Weaver, Oceans & Preservation Advocate with Environment California 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.”
The Environment California Research & Policy Center report on toxic pollutants discharged into 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.
Major findings of the report include:
- The ConocoPhillips San Francisco Refinery was the biggest polluter in California, dumping 741,459 pounds of toxic pollution into the San Francisco Bay. Nationwide, Phillips 66 was the 10th biggest polluter in the country.
- Overall, polluters dumped 1.67 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the San Francisco Bay watershed during 2012. This is 71 percent of all toxic water pollution documented for California’s waterways that year.
Environment California Research & Policy Center’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 infertility. The toxic chemicals dumped in the San Francisco Bay include benzene, which causes cancer, and developmental toxins, such as mercury, 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. Environment California Research & Policy Center highlights one part of the solution that could actually become law this year: Restoring the Clean Water Act protections to all California’s waterways.
As a result of court cases brought by polluters, 140,000 miles of streams in California and 7.3 million Californians’ drinking water are now at risk of having no protection from pollution under the federal Clean Water Act. Following years of advocacy by Environment California Research & Policy Center and its allies, this spring, the EPA finally proposed a rule to close the loopholes that have left California’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 including the oil and gas industry in California.
“Looking at the data from our report today, you can see why polluters might oppose it,” said Weaver. “That’s why we are working with farmers, small businesses, and thousands of ordinary Californians to make sure our voices for clean water are heard in Washington, D.C. The future of California 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.
“California’s waterways shouldn’t be a polluter’s dumping ground,” said Weaver. “If we want the San Francisco Bay to be clean for future generations of Californians, we must restore Clean Water Act protections to all of our waterways, and we must do it now.”