Polluting our Rivers
rivers in peril. Scenic small rivers can suffer
from pollution other than from coal mining, timbering, and
chemical industries. Blackwater River in scenic Tucker County
receives an increasing amount of pollution from tourist
facilities. The effect is a lowered oxygen level in
the stream. In August 2001 the Federation of Fly Fishers
named the Blackwater as one of the four most endangered
fisheries in the nation.
upon a time. In the first part of the twentieth
century the Ohio River was a shallow, free-flowing
river. Later on, dams -- built by the Corps of Engineers to
supply industries with a continuous supply of water -- converted
the mighty Ohio into a series of slow-moving lakes. Wildlife
disappeared and sedimentation from and use practices,
along with industrial pollutants, affected wildlife
habitat and water quality.
In November 2000 Congress
approved $307,000,000 to restore the Ohio River's ecosystem.
A 15-year plan will start with demonstration projects and
aims for building new dikes and new islands, reforesting
bottom land, and dredging backwaters. New clean-up technologies
may come from Marshall University's Center for Environmental,
Geotechnical and Applied Sciences.
Three major rivers.
Industries located along three major rivers - Ohio,
Kanawha, and Monongahela - have polluted these rivers for
many decades. And for decades, specifically concerning
the Ohio River, federal governmental efforts (EPA) combined
with an interstate commission, ORSANCO, have helped clean
up some of the worst abuses.
Yet, levels of harmful water pollutants are unacceptable.
along the Kanawha River near our capital city are our toxic
heritage. In the case of the notorious chemical, dioxin,
both the Kanawha River and the Ohio River have some chemical
hot spots. In the mid-1990s dioxin levels became a significant
wedge issue, a political hot button in West Virginia, undermining
support for the proposed Mason County pulp mill. The
pulp mill project is dead after a long fight by OVEC and
many West Virginians.
A June 2000 a federal EPA
study concluded that dioxin can cause cancer in humans.
In July 1999 and June 2000, the EPA proposed a plan for
eliminating most of the dioxin leaching into the Kanawha
River from groundwater and soil and for limiting the dioxin
released by contaminated sediment on the river bottom.
EPA sampling, in accord with a federal court's TMDL order,
occurred in 2001. TMDLs are discussed in the topic "Clean
The affected Kanawha River
section stretches 45 miles from where the Coal River meets
the Kanawha to the Kanawha's confluence with the Ohio River.
It includes four tributaries -- Pocatalico River, Armour
Creek, Heizer Creek, and Manila Creek. Superfund cleanup
may occur. OVEC is active on this topic of concern. A fish-consumption
advisory has been in effect since the late 1980s.
In August 2000 a lawsuit
was filed in Putnam County Circuit Court by a Manila Creek
resident, as a representative of a class of residents, against
Monsanto Co. and others. Monsanto had produced the herbicide
"Agent Orange" (2,4,5-T) at its Nitro plant. Dioxin
was a tar-like contaminant resulting from the batch process.
ORSANCO (Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Compact) includes
these member states: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky,
New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and West Virginia).
[W. Va. Code sec. 22C-12-1 et. seq.]. Another interstate
commission, the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River
Basin, has members from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland,
District of Columbia, and West Virginia. [W.Va. Code
sec. 22C-11-1 et. seq.].
Data and reports. Information
on pollution discharge of toxic substances into waters such
as the Ohio River is gathered by the the EPA through its
Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) program.
Annual reports by pollution emitters are required
to be submitted to the EPA by the Emergency Planning
and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).
[42 U.S. Code sec11001 et. seq.]. To access West Virginia's
DEP's TRI data click on http://www.dep.state.wv.us/...
In September 1998 the U.
S. Public Interest Group issued a report based upon EPA's
data. It showed that West Virginia waters, from 1992
through 1996, received 23.4 million pounds of toxic chemicals,
making the state ninth in the nation, a disturbing distinction.
In that time period the
Ohio River was the recipient of 19.2 million pounds
of toxic chemicals, 14.84 million pounds of which came from
the Bayer Corporation plant near New Martinsville.
Other major toxic chemical emitters in the report are Weirton
Steel Corp. (Weirton), Cytec Industries (Willow Island),
DuPont Co. (Belle), Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel (Follansbee),
GE Corp. (Washington), Clearon Corp. (South Charleston),
Howes Leather Co. (Frank), Shell Chemical Co. (Apple Grove),
and Kanawha River Terminals, Inc. (Ceredo).
The Kanawha River
was the state's second largest recipient of 1.7 million
pounds of toxic chemicals and the Greenbrier River
was third with 300,000 pounds. The report is not inclusive
of all chemicals discharged into the state's rivers.
A different annual index of emissions
of toxic pollutants into the air, land, and water is the
Scorecard kept by the Charleston-based National Institute
for Chemical Studies (NICS) since 1987.
During the 1987 - 1997 period for West Virginia total
releases of into the air, land, and water have dropped by
The 1996 Scorecard shows
a drop of 12 percent in emissions of a core group of chemicals
NICS follows. The top ten toxic polluters in the
Scorecard in West Virginia for 1996 were Shell Chemical
Co. (Apple Grove)[however its output was grossly distorted
by a required but distorted reporting technique], Bayer
Corp. (New Martinsville), OSI Specialties (Sistersville),
Weirton Steel Sorp. (Weirton), Union Carbide Corp. (Institute),
DuPont Washington Works (Washington), DuPont Belle plant
(Belle), Union Carbide Corp. (South Charleston), American
Woodwork Corp. (Moorefield), and BASF Corp. (Huntington).
The NICS 1996 Scorecard
shows a 7 percent drop in release of monitored chemicals
in the Kanawha Valley since 1995. The top toxic
chemical emitters in the Kanawha Valleyfor 1996 were located
in Belle, Institute, Nitro, and South Charleston. The top
chemicals released into the air, land, and water, with the
largest emitter in parentheses, were toluene (Rhone-Poulenc;
523,387 pounds), nitrate compounds (DuPont Belle; 428,392
pounds); hydrochloric acid (Union Carbide, South Charleston;
286,520 pounds); methanol (DuPont Belle; 127,631 pounds);
and ammonia (Clearon; 102,456 pounds).
Successes. The federal
Clean Water Act has been successful in limiting harmful
discharges into rivers from industrial plants and from city
sewers. Such successes are measured by gradual improvements
in levels of monitored pollutants. It is important to applaud
our successes. Across this great
land, since enactment of the Clean Water Act, twenty
to thirty percent of once-polluted rivers have become suitable
for fishing and swimming.
these successes, an August 2001 report by EPA's Inspector
General concluded that states are doing a poor job of monitoring
and punishing water polluters. Criticism was directed specifically
at non-point source pollution.
In the early 1970s legislators of the day did not envision
the types and amounts of pollutants Americans now face:
pesticides, herbicides, bacteria, silt, and oxygen-depleting
substances. These largely originate from non-point
sources not described in the Clean Water Act --
rural farm fields, logging camps, and urban streets.
Until the mid-1990s only modest attention was given to this
ever-increasing problem. Voluntary, non-regulated best management
practices are the norm. Information about non-point sources
can be found at http://www.epa.gov/...
In August 1999 EPA proposed
ambitious rules that would require states to submit plans,
within 15 years, to clean up every waterway that
fails to meet water quality standards. The proposal
is aimed at indirect pollution sources such
as farmers, loggers, and parking lots, which produce water
runoff. West Virginia is the home of one major non-point
polluter in the eastern panhandle.[See"This isn't chicken
salad" in this web site.]. In July 2000 President Clinton
ordered EPA to complete the rules before a congressional
rider forbidding issuance of new non-point source rules
Last updated on Tuesday, September 4, 2001