On June 19th, 2014, a group of citizens met in Founders Park, Alexandria in order to hold a press event advocating for the closure of loopholes in the Clean Water Act. At the event was Mayor of Alexandria William Euille as well as state senator of Virginia’s 30th district, Adam Ebbin. They were joined by Clean Water Action representative Andrew Fellows and Environment Virginia field manager Chris Brown. The speakers spoke regarding water pollution in Virginia and necessary actions to help stem the growing problem. The event also coincided with the release of the 2014 Wasting our Waterways Report.
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 Virginia and across the nation.
Industrial facilities dumped 11,821,961 pounds of toxic chemicals into Virginia’s waterways in 2014, making Virginia’s waterways the 5th worst in the nation, according to the new report.
“I've seen local waterways become void of fish and I pass too many commercial farms with my windows up because of the stench of "B" bio-solids being dumped haphazardly. These pollutants are covering our dirt, washing into streams, ground water and rivers. I could easily introduce dozens of people that are literally fighting for their lives, many of whom are proof of being uneducated or unconcerned about additives being put in/on our dirt, our water and our bodies,” said local farmer, Marianne Cicala.
The Environment Virginia report on toxic pollutants discharged to America’s water is based on data reported by polluting facilities to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory for 2012, the most recent data available.
The report also found that the Upper New River watershed in Virginia was ranked the 2nd worst in the whole country for total toxic releases by weight. In addition to this, the report indicates that the toxic chemicals that continue to be dumped in our nation’s waterways by various polluters are linked to developmental and reproductive disorders and even cancer.
Environment Virginia’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. The toxic chemicals dumped in Virginia include arsenic, which causes cancer, and developmental toxins such as mercury, which can affect the way children grow, learn, and behave.
“As an organic farmer, it is part of my job to minimize the potential for nutrient runoff from the fields I farm,” said Edmund Frost, an organic farmer from Louisa County. “As a citizen it is my job to support efforts to limit water pollution caused by industry and by corporate farming operations. Virginia waterways belong to all of us in common. Cleaning them up and keeping them clean is also our collective responsibility.”
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 Virginia is highlighting one part of the solution that could actually become law this year: restoring the Clean Water Act protections to all Virginia’s waters.
As a result of court cases brought by polluters, 28,000 miles of streams in Virginia and 2 million Virginian’s drinking water are at risk of having no protection from pollution under the federal Clean Water Act. Following years of advocacy by Virginia and its allies, this spring, the EPA proposed a rule to close the loopholes that have left Virginia’s waterways at risk and restore Clean Water Act Protections.
But the clean water rule is being vigorously opposed by a wide range of polluting industries including Radford Army Ammunition Plant in Virginia.
“Looking at the data from our report today, you can see why polluters might oppose it,” said Chris Brown. “That’s why we are working with farmers, small businesses, and thousands of ordinary Virginians to make sure our voices for clean water are heard in Washington, D.C. The future of the Potomac hangs in balance.”
The public commentary period on the clean water rule began the day before Earth Day, and is open until October.
Virginia’s waterways shouldn't be a polluter’s dumping ground,” said Brown. “If we want Virginia to be clean for future generations of Virginians, we must restore Clean Water Act protections to all of our waterways, and we must do it now.”