Denver, CO -- Industrial facilities dumped 849,610 pounds of toxic chemicals into Colorado’s waterways in 2012, according to a new report by Environment Colorado 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 Colorado and across the nation.
“Colorado’s rivers should be clean – for swimming, drinking, and supporting wildlife,” said Andrew Fish, Campaign Organizer with Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center. “But too often, our waters have become a dumping ground for polluters. The first step in curbing this tide of toxic pollution is to restore Clean Water Act protections to all our waterways.”
The Environment Colorado 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.
Major findings of the report include:
- Cargill Meat Solutions Corp was the biggest polluter in Colorado, dumping 462,608 pounds of toxic pollution into the South Platte watershed. Furthermore, Cargill Inc. was the 4th biggest polluter in the country, discharging 10,619,393 pounds of toxic pollutants nationwide.
Environment Colorado 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. One such chemical dumped in Colorado is lead, a developmental and reproductive toxin that has also been linked to cancer. Developmental toxins like lead have the ability to affect the way children learn, grow, 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. But Environment Colorado 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 Colorado’s waters.
“Whether for drinking water, biodiversity, or for recreational purposes, having safe, clean water is one of the core environmental values of our community,” said Boulder City Council Member Tim Plass. “From Boulder Creek to Sombrero Marsh, the city has worked hard to protect and enhance its watersheds and wetland areas, and I am excited for the proposed rule by the EPA to see the original promise of the Clean Water Act realized.”
As a result of court cases brought by polluters, 73,000 miles of streams in Colorado and 3.7 million Coloradan’s drinking water are now at risk of having no protection from pollution under the federal Clean Water Act. Following years of advocacy by Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center and its allies, this spring, the EPA finally proposed a rule to close the loopholes that have left Colorado’s waterways at risk and restore Clean Water Act protections.
But the clean water rule is being vigorously opposed by a wide range of polluters including the big agriculture and petroleum industries.
“Looking at the data from our report today, you can see why polluters might oppose it,” said Fish. “That’s why we are working with farmers, small businesses, and thousands of ordinary Coloradans to make sure that our voices for clean water are heard in Washington, D.C.”
Randy Hicks, Owner & President of Rocky Mountain Anglers, is one such voice. “Colorado’s rivers, lakes and streams are a crucial source of tourism for the state, and whether fishing, rafting, swimming, or hiking, visitors who enjoy these waters expect clean and clear rivers free from pollution,” he said. “Protecting our waterways is the best way to ensure that vacationers enjoy the Colorado outdoors lifestyle, and keep coming back to visit our great state.”
Matt Bailey, Maintenance and Engineering Manager at Odell Brewing Co., agrees that protecting waterways is essential. "As Brewers all natural resources are vitally important to our business and ability to make beer. Probably the most important natural resource we use is water, making up the largest ingredient in the beer making process, and more importantly the quality and purity of the water used dramatically affects our final product and our consumers. Odell Brewing proudly supports regulations that help prevent hazardous waste or chemicals entering our water streams here in Colorado and across the nation."
The public comment period on the clean water rule began the day before Earth Day, and it is still open right now.
“Colorado’s waterways shouldn’t be a polluter’s dumping ground,” said Fish. “If we want the South Platte and Colorado Rivers to be clean for future generations of Coloradans, we must restore Clean Water Act protections to all of our waterways, and we must do it now.”
Environment Colorado Research and Policy Center is a state-based, citizen-funded, environmental organization working towards a cleaner, greener, healthier future. For more information, visit http://www.environmentcoloradocenter.org/