A report compiled by the Environment New York Research & Policy Center titled Wasting Our Water has listed New York’s waterways as the 15th worst polluted in the nation.
Environment New York’s results on toxic pollutants discharged into America’s waters are based on data reported by facilities to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory in 2012, the most recent data available.
Major findings show that 5,303,190 total pounds of toxic chemicals had been dumped into New York’s waterways, which included 16,868 pounds of chemicals linked to cancer, 1,873 pounds of chemicals linked to developmental disorders, and 21,676 pounds of chemicals linked to reproductive problems.
Westchester’s own IBM facilities were some of the top contributors to water pollution, according to Environment New York Director Jessica Leibowitz.
“When we’re looking at facilities like IBM which are dumping over 900,000 pounds of nitrates, there are different health effects to nitrates,” Leibowitz said. She added that serious problems could be caused in infants if nitrate is found in their drinking water. The chemical can also risk creating oxygen-deprived dead zones in the waterways.
The Environment New York report’s release comes as the Environmental Protection Agency is considering new rules which would restore and strengthen the Clean Water Act to protect waterways across the nation from pollution. The EPA may adjust the Clean Water Act to regulate headwater streams, isolated wetlands, and other waterways. Groups like Environment New York are lobbying state and federal officials to take steps like requiring enforceable standards for facilities that could threaten waters with pollution.
“Right now, there are over 28,000 miles of stream that are left unprotected due to a string of court cases that have narrowed which waterways are covered by federal protection,” says Leibowitz. The Supreme Court case Rapanos v. US shrunk the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act in 2006.
The discharge of toxic chemicals is a threat to human health, as certain chemicals can accumulate in fish, riverbeds, and other parts of the environment. If ingested or absorbed by humans, the chemicals can cause infertility, developmental damage, or cancer. The public comment period for the revival of the Clean Water Act has been extended to October, and Environment New York is hoping for residents to go on the EPA’s website and log public comments.
“Environment New York is making a particular effort to work with farmers and regular New Yorkers and really amplify New Yorker’s voices in this situation,” Leibowitz said.
You can read Environment New York’s full Wasting Our Waters report here.
More information on the how pollutants affect waterways and humans can be found on the EPA’s website.