Connecticut's Waterways Take a Chemical Bath

224,000 pounds of toxins dumped into state’s rivers and streams in 2012

By ecoRI News staff

Industrial facilities dumped 224,029 pounds of toxic chemicals into Connecticut’s waterways in 2012, according to a new report by the Environment Connecticut Research & Policy Center.

The report was released as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers a new rule to restore Clean Water Act protections to thousands of waterways in Connecticut and across the nation.

“All of Connecticut’s waterways should be clean and safe for swimming, drinking and supporting wildlife,” said Rachel Konowitz, campaign director with Environment Connecticut. “But too often, our waters have become a dumping ground for polluters. The first step to solving this problem is to restore Clean Water Act protections to all our waterways.”

The report on toxic pollutants is based on data reported by polluting facilities to the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory for 2012, the most recent data available. The former Cytec Industries (now Allnex) facility in Wallingford was the biggest polluter, discharging 89,338 pounds of pollution into the Quinnipiac River.

The 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. Connecticut facilities discharged 2,404 pounds of cancer-causing chemicals, 550 pounds of developmental toxics, and 1,567 pounds of reproductive toxics.

The report recommends several steps to curb this tide of toxic pollution, including requiring industry to switch from toxic chemicals to safer alternatives.  Environment Connecticut is highlighting one particular part of the solution that could actually become law this year: restoring the Clean Water Act protections to all of America’s waters.

As a result of court cases brought by polluters, more than 3,000 miles of streams in Connecticut and about a million Nutmeg State residents’ drinking water are now at potential risk of having no protection from pollution under the federal Clean Water Act. Following years of advocacy by Environment Connecticut and its allies, this spring the EPA finally proposed a rule to close the loopholes that have left Connecticut’s waterways and risk and restore Clean Water Act protections.

But the clean water rule is being vigorously opposed by a wide range of polluting industries.

“Looking at the data from our report, you can see why polluters might oppose it,” Konowitz said. “That’s why we are working with farmers, small businesses and thousands of citizen activists to make sure our voices for clean water are heard in Washington, D.C. Connecticut’s waterways shouldn’t be a polluter’s dumping ground.”