Environmental

More than HALF of U.S. rivers are too polluted to support life as shocking report reveals scale of water contamination

  • Pollution  is due to fertiliser use and over-development
  • Harmful  levels of toxic mercury in fish from U.S. rivers

By  Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED: 11:27 EST, 27  March 2013 |  UPDATED: 11:27 EST, 27 March 2013

More than half of America’s rivers and  streams are now unable to support life after decades of pollution, it was  revealed yesterday.

The bulk of the damage has been done by  agricultural fertilisers such as phosphorus and nitrogen washing from fields  into waterways.

In total, 55 per cent of rivers and streams  were classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as being ‘poor’, with  only a fifth in good health.

Polluted: Rivers such as the Mississippi are now largely lifeless thanks to farming
Polluted: Rivers such as the Mississippi are now largely  lifeless thanks to farming

The agency sampled nearly 2,000 locations in  2008 and 2009 – from rivers as large as the Mississippi River to streams small  enough for wading.

The study found more than 55 per cent of them  in poor condition, 23 per cent in fair shape, and 21 per cent in good biological  health.

The most widespread problem is high levels of  nutrient pollution, caused by phosphorus and nitrogen washing into rivers and  streams from farms, cities, and sewers.

High levels of phosphorus – a common  ingredient in detergents and fertilisers – are found in 40 per cent of rivers  and streams.

Another major problem is over-development, as  land clearing and building along waterways increases erosion and flooding,  allowing more pollutants to enter waters.

Beautiful: But human activity on the Hudson and elsewhere has done severe damage to the ecological diversity of America's waterwaysBeautiful: But human activity on the Hudson and  elsewhere has done severe damage to the ecological diversity of America’s  waterways

‘This new science shows that America’s  streams and rivers are under significant pressure,’ said Nancy Stoner, from the  EPA’s water office.

‘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.’

Conditions are worse in the East, the report  found. More than 70 per cent of streams and rivers from the Texas coast to the  New Jersey coast are in poor shape.

Streams and rivers are healthiest in sparsely  populated Western mountain areas, where only 26 per cent were classified as in  poor condition.

The EPA also found some potential risks for  human health. In 9 per cent of rivers and streams, bacteria exceeded thresholds  thought to endanger health.

The toxic chemical mercury was found in fish  along 13,000 miles of streams at levels exceeding health-based  standards.

Mercury can enter the environment from  coal-burning power plants and from burning hazardous wastes. The Obama  administration finalised regulations to control mercury pollution from  coal-burning power plants for the first time in late 2011.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2300022/More-HALF-U-S-rivers-polluted-support-life-shocking-report-reveals-scale-water-contamination.html#ixzz2Ons4TZT6 Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook