Pollution of the Delaware River overlooked by most

As Earth Day approaches there is an interesting item that caught Rob Tornoe’s attention.  Check out his latest contribution to newsworks.org/delaware. We welcome your comments.

Rob Tornoe commentary:

With politics sucking the air out of most of the media coverage lately, there are news stories that seem to fall through the cracks because they don’t have catchy sound-bites like “The War on Woman” or “The Buffett Rule” attached.

A story that’s getting almost no play locally is the plight of our beloved Delaware River. According to a report by Environment New Jersey,the river ranks as the fifth most-polluted in the country. In 2010 alone, 6.7 million pounds to toxic chemicals were estimated to have been released into the river, most coming from the DuPont Chambers Works in Salem County, NJ.

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And here’s a fun tidbit for you: it’s legal. In fact, DuPont has always met the requirements of the discharge permit. Which begs the question, shouldn’t it be tougher?

“The problem is that government agencies allow these discharges to continue by issuing permits to pollute, a perverse interpretation of the Clean Water Act,” Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, said in a statement. “This has to stop if we want to provide a healthy, economically sound Delaware River for everyone.”

And it’s not just evil, giant corporations dumping their dirty chemicals into the river. Runoff from cities and farms, including manure and fertilizer, flow into our waterways and are possibly the greatest contributor of toxic pollutants.

The Clean Water Act was enacted 40 years ago, and while it has worked to reduce the amount of pollution in our waterways, more is needed to be done to ensure safe, clean drinking water for our future generations.

I can already imagine the cry of businesses if any move is made to toughen pollution standards – “We can’t have clean water, it will cost jobs!” The cry from Republicans would probably be worse- “Get rid of the EPA!”

Wait, they’ve already made that case. Oops.

Big lobbies like the American Farm Bureau Federation have long fought efforts by the EPA to limit the amount of toxic pollutants that flow into the Chesapeake Bay, suffocating marine life and reducing the quality of the watershed.

The Mississippi River, listed as the second most toxic in the country, is filled with  chemical runoff from industrial farms from the area, and sweeps it all down to the Gulf of Mexico. This pollution is responsible for creating large swaths of low-oxygen areas known as dead zones,killing marine life.

We need to stop wasting time endlessly debating issues like planned parenthood and gun control and get back to being good stewards for our environment. It should be the one thing we can agree on.


Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. See more of his work at RobTornoe.com, and follow him on twitter @RobTornoe.

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