2 Million Pounds of Toxic Chemicals Dumped into Missouri’s Waterways

Environment Missouri

St. Louis, Missouri – Industrial facilities dumped over 2 million pounds of toxic chemicals into Missouri’s waterways in 2010, according to a new report released today by Environment Missouri. Wasting Our Waterways: Industrial Toxic Pollution and the Unfulfilled Promise of the Clean Water Act also finds that 226 million pounds of toxic chemicals were discharged into 1,400 waterways across the country.

“Missouri’s waterways are a polluter’s paradise right now. Polluters dump millions of pounds of toxic chemicals into our lakes, rivers and streams every year, threatening the environment and our health,” said Sarah MacFarland, State Field Associate with Environment Missouri. “We must turn the tide of toxic pollution by restoring Clean Water Act protections to our waterways.”

The Environment Missouri report documents and analyzes the dangerous levels of pollutants discharged to waters in Missouri and across the country 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:

  • The Mississippi River comes in second in the nation in terms of toxic contamination, surpassed only by the Ohio River.  In 2010, 12.7 million pounds of toxins were dumped into the Mississippi from across the entire region where it flows, with 672,000 pounds of toxins released in Missouri.
  • A Tyson Food Inc processing plant in Pettis County was the single largest source of toxic releases in Missouri in 2010, dumping over 410,000 pounds of toxic chemicals into Little Muddy Creek.
  • In 2010, 5,107 pounds of chemicals linked to reproductive disorders were discharged in the Upper Black River watershed, and 4,843 pounds into the Meramec River watershed, making them among the top dozen most contaminated watersheds in the nation in terms of reproductive toxins.

Environment Missouri’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.

Environment Missouri was joined by Paul Ward, a member of the Kirkwood City Council, in releasing the report.  Councilman Ward is one of over 30 Missouri elected officials who recently joined Environment Missouri in writing to the Obama Administration in support of strong clean water protections.

“As an elected official, I hear often from my constituents how important clean water is to them,” said Ward. “I know that our waterways need to be clean for my community to thrive. We are all responsible for protecting our natural resources. We can’t be cavalier about protecting our waters, or the next generation won’t be able to enjoy them the way we have.”

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

In order to curb the toxic pollution threatening the Meramec River and Missouri’s other great waters, Environment Missouri 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 72,000 miles of streams in Missouri and 2.4 million Missourians’ 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 Missouri’s waterways shouldn’t be a polluter’s paradise, they should just be paradise. We need clean water now, and we are counting on our public officials to act to protect our health and our environment,” concluded MacFarland.