1.36 Million Pounds of Toxic Chemicals Dumped into Maryland’s Waterways

Environment Maryland

BALTIMORE – Industrial facilities dumped 1.36 million pounds of toxic chemicals into Maryland’s waterways, according to a new report released today by Environment Maryland. The report, Wasting Our Waterways: Industrial Toxic Pollution and the Unfulfilled Promise of the Clean Water Act also cites that 226 million pounds of toxic chemicals were discharged into 1,400 waterways across the country.

“Maryland’s waterways are a polluter’s paradise right now. Polluters dump 1.36 million pounds of toxic chemicals into Maryland’s lakes, rivers and streams every year,” said Ewa Krason, Field Organizer with Environment Maryland. “We must turn the tide of toxic pollution by restoring Clean Water Act protections to our waterways.”

The Environment Maryland report documents and analyzes the dangerous levels of pollutants discharged to America’s waters by compiling toxic chemical releases reported to the U.S. EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory for 2010, the most recent data available.

Major findings of the report include:

  • Industrial facilities discharged approximately 922,688 pounds of chemicals linked to cancer into the Curtis Creek in Maryland.
  • The Gunpowder-Patapsco Watershed is ranked 43rd in the nation for highest amount of total toxic discharges, with 1,339,183 pounds discharged in 2010. That is 98% of the toxic chemicals released into all of Maryland’s waterways in 2010.

Environment Maryland’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 reduced fertility. Among the toxic chemicals discharged by facilities are arsenic, mercury, and benzene. Exposure to these chemicals is linked to cancer, developmental disorders, and reproductive disorders.

“There are common-sense steps that we can take to turn the tide against toxic pollution of our waters,” added Krason.

In order to curb the toxic pollution threatening the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, Environment Maryland recommends the following:

  1. Pollution Prevention:  Industrial facilities should reduce their toxic discharges to waterways by switching from hazardous chemicals to safer alternatives. 
  2. Protect all waters:  The Obama administration should finalize guidelines and conduct a rulemaking to clarify that the Clean Water Act applies to all of our waterways – including the 10,000 miles of streams in Maryland and 4 million Marylander’s drinking water for which jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act has been called into question as a result of two polluter-driven Supreme Court decisions in the last decade.
  3. Tough permitting and enforcement:  EPA and state agencies should issue permits with tough, numeric limits for each type of toxic pollution discharged, ratchet down those limits over time, and enforce those limits with credible penalties, not just warning letters.

“The bottom line is that Maryland’s waterways shouldn’t be a polluter’s paradise, they should just be paradise. We need clean water now, and we are counting on the federal government to act to protect our health and our environment,” concluded Krason.