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Sportsman's Connection /
Outdoor Talk Network
How Clean Are Our Waters???
The fishing has been pretty good. With an 82% approval rating, our fishermen obviously feel the PA Fish and Boat Commission is doing an excellent job. In the coming weeks I would like to highlight some of our programs for you. The “Big Bass” and “Trophy Bass” waters and programs, our love affair with walleyes and one of my favorites, the muskie stocking program. If you put the gas in your truck and take the time to explore, you will find we have a diversity of fisheries across this state that are a testimonial to a state agency doing its job. Unfortunately, all is not perfect in paradise. It never is.
In 1997 the PA Department of Environmental Protection allowed 41 million pounds of toxins to be dumped in our waters. That fact made us #2 in the nation for toxin discharges. We only trailed Louisiana and their efforts to kill the Mississippi River. I think we can say we are in a state of crisis. The EPA has said toxins are only about 10% of the total discharges into our rivers. A leader in toxin discharges is not an accomplishment to be proud of.
PA has the distinction of being the home of the #1 water polluter in the nation, Armco Industries of Butler, PA. This metal plating company discharges, by DEP permit, 29 million pounds of nitric acid into the Connoquenessing River each year. The Connoquenessing is the second most polluted river in the nation. The Mississippi is #1.
PA is also the home of some of the other most polluted rivers in the country. The Schuylkill River is our second most polluted river (3.5 million pounds of toxins) and qualifies as #11 in the country. The Ohio receives 1.7 million pounds of toxins each year and ranks #3 in PA and #4 in the US. The Kiskiminetas ranks #4 in PA and # 26 in the nation. Bachman Run comes in at #5 in PA and #32 in the nation with 1.2 millions pounds of toxins being discharged in her waters. The Allegheny places #6 in PA and #50 in the country. Lake Erie is #7 and #44 in the US, Bald Eagle Creek is #8, the Delaware is #9 in the state and nation and the Monongahela is #10 finishing out the top ten in PA.
The Delaware River sets itself apart from all others by being #1 in the nation for receiving reproductive toxins. These toxins cause birth defects, mutations and a vast array of human and animal reproductive problems. The mighty Delaware receives a combined total of 4.4 million pounds of toxins each year considering our surrounding states’ discharges.
The Allegheny River has the distinction of being #2 in the nation for receiving toxic metals. It also consumes 800,000 pounds of toxins each year. If you remember your baseball days, the Allegheny and Monogehela join the Ohio at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. I cringe at the thought of the pollution the Ohio is carrying to the Mississippi. Unfortunately, this is where we are.
If all of the above is not enough to ruin your day, we have a new threat on the horizon. Confined Animal Feedlot Operations (CAFO) are all the rage in the agri-business industry. These operations are not about the family farming industry. They are about jamming thousands of head of pigs on small acreage to improve economies of scale and reduce costs. This is commercial farming or corporate farming at its best and worst. It has been estimated 1000 head of pigs on small acreage has the waste discharge equivalent of a small town of 8000 people. These agri-businesses are beginning to appear in Berks and Lancaster Counties. If the smell doesn’t kill us, their discharges will eventually be our ruination. Under current law the waste from the animals is directed into retention ponds. Eventually, the waste is picked up by someone and transported to somewhere. I am waiting for days for DEP to tell me the laws governing this waste.
The new 1998 numbers for total toxin discharges just became available this month. We have now surpassed Louisiana. We now discharge by legal, DEP permit, 45 million pounds of toxins in our rivers each year. Individual river numbers are not available as I write this. We have gone from the #2 toxin discharger to the #1 toxin discharger in the nation. If you want more detailed information go to www.pennpirg.org.
We have reached the point of critical mass, as I like to say. If we aren’t in a state of crisis, I do not know what to call it. I love to fish and eat certain species of fish. I am overcome by sadness and outrage when I must return a fish because I may endanger myself and my family if I keep it and eat it.
The fishing may be fabulous, but what are we fishing in? There is much work we need to do. As a start, we need to do something with Armco Industries. Being the home of the #1 water polluter in the nation is an embarrassment. Being known for having the highest toxin discharges in the nation leaves me speechless.
“If you want to know the priorities of a nation and the effectiveness of their government, test their water quality.” Jim Slinsky
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