EPA says 55% of rivers, streams in ‘poor condition’

So what has EPA been doing for the last 40+ years with the billions and billions of dollars appropiated for clean water?

The media release is below.

March 26, 2013

EPA Survey Finds More Than Half of the Nation’s River and Stream Miles in Poor Condition

WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the results of the first comprehensive survey looking at the health of thousands of stream and river miles across the country, finding that more than half – 55 percent – are in poor condition for aquatic life.

“The health of our Nation’s rivers, lakes, bays and coastal waters depends on the vast network of streams where they begin, and this new science shows that America’s streams and rivers are under significant pressure,” said Office of Water Acting Assistant Administrator Nancy Stoner. “We must continue to invest in protecting and restoring our nation’s streams and rivers as they are vital sources of our drinking water, provide many recreational opportunities, and play a critical role in the economy.”

The 2008-2009 National Rivers and Stream Assessment reflects the most recent data available, and is part of EPA’s expanded effort to monitor waterways in the U.S. and gather scientific data on the condition of the Nation’s water resources.

EPA partners, including states and tribes, collected data from approximately 2,000 sites across the country. EPA, state and university scientists analyzed the data to determine the extent to which rivers and streams support aquatic life, how major stressors may be affecting them and how conditions are changing over time.

Findings of the assessment include:

– Nitrogen and phosphorus are at excessive levels. Twenty-seven percent of the nation’s rivers and streams have excessive levels of nitrogen, and 40 percent have high levels of phosphorus. Too much nitrogen and phosphorus in the water—known as nutrient pollution—causes significant increases in algae, which harms water quality, food resources and habitats, and decreases the oxygen that fish and other aquatic life need to survive. Nutrient pollution has impacted many streams, rivers, lakes, bays and coastal waters for the past several decades, resulting in serious environmental and human health issues, and impacting the economy.

– Streams and rivers are at an increased risk due to decreased vegetation cover and increased human disturbance. These conditions can cause streams and rivers to be more vulnerable to flooding, erosion, and pollution. Vegetation along rivers and streams slows the flow of rainwater so it does not erode stream banks, removes pollutants carried by rainwater and helps maintain water temperatures that support healthy streams for aquatic life. Approximately 24 percent of the rivers and streams monitored were rated poor due to the loss of healthy vegetative cover.

– Increased bacteria levels. High bacteria levels were found in nine percent of stream and river miles making those waters potentially unsafe for swimming and other recreation.

– Increased mercury levels. More than 13,000 miles of rivers have fish with mercury levels that may be unsafe for human consumption. For most people, the health risk from mercury by eating fish and shellfish is not a health concern, but some fish and shellfish contain higher levels of mercury that may harm an unborn baby or young child’s developing nervous system.

EPA plans to use this new data to inform decision making about addressing critical needs around the country for rivers, streams, and other waterbodies. This comprehensive survey will also help develop improvements to monitoring these rivers and streams across jurisdictional boundaries and enhance the ability of states and tribes to assess and manage water quality to help protect our water, aquatic life, and human health. Results are available for a dozen geographic and ecological regions of the country.

More information: http://www.epa.gov/aquaticsurveys

7 thoughts on “EPA says 55% of rivers, streams in ‘poor condition’”

  1. The EPA is definitely not a failure. The quality of the environment in the USA has improved dramatically in the past 40 years. For example, when was the last time you heard of a river so polluted with waste solvents that it caught fire? Rivers on fire were fairly common in the 1960s. Our harbors were open sewers. Air pollution has also improved by wide margins. As Gene said, the days when you could see or smell pollution are gone. There are a few exceptions.

    The EPA has arbitrarily changed its standards. As Coach Springer suggests, anything short of pristine is no longer acceptable. The goal of the EPA appears to be the elimination of all traces of human activity… That’s not likely to happen. On the other hand, if they were to admit their successes, they would be in jeopardy. Who needs the EPA if they’ve successfully cleaned up the environment?

  2. The Mississippi has been muddy forever. That’s how the Louisiana Delta got built-silt deposits from the River. The notice doesn’t tell you what standards EPA used or if those standards have changed.

  3. If the EPA analysis is correct, it follows that it is a failed steward for clean water. It is time to dissolve the EPA and repeal the Clean Water Act and start over again.

  4. Been paddling on a number of rivers in the Midwest and in the East. The Illinois River and the Mississippi look muddy most of the time, but it is hard to say how much of that is due to pollution. From earlier experience in pollution monitoring, I know that in a typical higher-order stream such as Mississippi, all organic pollution from sewer or street run-off tends to precipitate quickly — within about 10 miles downstream — and during rainfall events, it is drowned by the local run-off and perturbed sediment.

    A little secret few people know: nearly all organic stuff we dump in the rivers gets processed by mollusks, so it’s not precipitation alone. Molluscs also contribute free nitrates. I have a shell from Fox River on my desk — it’s nearly one foot long and easily a hundred years old. It is possible that human waste was partly responsible for that monstrosity, but I doubt. It was far from populated places where I picked it.

    Unlike big rivers, where pollution is hard to detect (and the days when it was easy to see or smell are long gone), all smaller streams I have visited were in a stunningly good condition. The Delaware River is absolutely gorgeous. I have not seen a similarly-sized river in such a good condition anywhere else. The only problem I did notice was people throwing garbage in their rivers. EPA can do nothing about it.

  5. A lot of muddy or clear water streams. Green River remains a specialty drink at dedicated fountains. General EPA game: Not pristine = poor. Pristine = no humans.

  6. “Twenty-seven percent of the nation’s rivers and streams have excessive levels of nitrogen, and 40 percent have high levels of phosphorus. Too much nitrogen and phosphorus in the water—known as nutrient pollution—causes significant increases in algae, which harms water quality, food resources and habitats, and decreases the oxygen that fish and other aquatic life need to survive.”

    And how many of these had algae? Algae is the problem, not conditions favorable for algae.

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