10 Million Pounds of Toxic Chemicals Dumped into Georgia’s Waterways

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Savannah River ranks 3rd in the Country for Toxic Discharges

Environment Georgia Research & Policy Center

Savannah, GA–Industrial facilities dumped 10,132,268 pounds of toxic chemicals into Georgia’s waterways in 2012, making Georgia’s waterways the 8th worst in the nation according to a new report by Environment Georgia Research & Policy Center. The Savannah River and her tributaries received over 5 million pounds of toxic pollution making it the third worst in the country.

The “Wasting Our Waters” report comes as the Environmental Protection Agency considers a new rule to restore Clean Water Act protections to thousands of waterways in Georgia and across the nation.

“Georgia’s rivers should be clean – for swimming, drinking, and supporting wildlife,” said Jennette Gayer, Director of Environment Georgia 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 Georgia Research & 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.

“It is very unfortunate that once again the Savannah ranks at the very top of the toxics list, but it is also not a surprise,” said Savannah Riverkeeper Tonya Bonitatibus.. “Our biggest discharges are largely working on permits that expires 5-6 sometimes 8 years ago, administratively extended at this point seemingly indefinitely. We must work towards decreasing this toxic load for the health of the river and the 1.4 million people that rely on her for their drinking water.”

Major findings of the report include:

  • The Savannah River is ranked 3rd in the nation for the highest amount of total toxic discharges with 5,025,161 pounds discharged in 2010.
  • In the South Atlantic-Gulf region, polluters dumped 37,715,2113 pounds of toxic chemicals into our waterways, making this watershed the 2nd most polluted in the nation.
  • DSM Chemicals North America Inc. was the biggest polluter in GA dumping 4,085,115 pounds of toxic pollution into the Middle Savannah River.
  • Industrial facilities discharged approximately 55,565 pounds of chemicals linked to cancer into Georgia’s rivers—the 10th highest amount in the country.

Environment Georgia 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.

“As an elected official, I often hear from my constituents about how important clean water is to them,” said Rep. J. Craig Gordon. “I know that our waterways need to be clean for my district to thrive.

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 Georgia Research & Policy Center is highlighting one part of the solution that could actually become law this year: Restoring the Clean Water Act protections to all Georgia’s waters.

As a result of court cases brought by polluters, nearly 40,000 miles of streams in Georgia and 4.9 million Georgians’ drinking water are now at risk of having no protection from pollution under the federal Clean Water Act. Following years of advocacy by Environment Georgia Research & Policy Center and its allies, this spring, the EPA finally proposed a rule to close the loopholes that have left STATE’s waterways and risk and restore Clean Water Act protections.

But a wide range of polluting industries including large agribusiness and developers is vigorously opposing the clean water rule. 

“Looking at the data from our report today, you can see why polluters might oppose it,” said Gayer.  “That’s why we are working with farmers, small businesses, and thousands of ordinary Georgians to make sure our voices for clean water are heard in Washington, D.C.  The future of the Savannah 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.

Georgia’s waterways shouldn’t be a polluter’s dumping ground,” said Gayer.  “If we want the Savannah to be clean for future generations of Georgians, we must restore Clean Water Act protections to all of our waterways, and we must do it now.”