A study has found that industrial and commercial facilities in Pennsylvania are the second worst in the United States in terms of excessive pollution discharge into local waterways. PennEnvironment, a non-profit research and policy center, reported its findings after examining data gathered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and various state agencies. The study focused on waste that was discharged in 2016 and 2017.
Specifically, PennEnvironment used data that was gathered pursuant to the Clean Water Act. The Act prohibits facilities from polluting waterways without a special government issued permit. These permits limit how much waste can be discharged and describe how the site is to be monitored. The data utilized by PennEnvironment dealt with violations of permitting requirements.
Major facilities that were monitored in the state include: U.S. Steel Corp. in Bucks County along the Delaware River; Graterford Prison, which discharges prison waste into Perkiomen Creek; and Monroe Energy Trainer Refinery in Delaware County, which discharges into Stoney Creek along the Delaware River. Graterford officials noted that excessive discharge was likely related to a construction project.
According to the study authors, the Clean Water Act is not being enforced as it should. For example, 20,000 miles of Pennsylvania waterways are still too polluted for swimming or fishing, in part due to lax enforcement of the Act. They noted that 2017 was the weakest year in terms of enforcement of the Clean Water Act since 2012.
The study revealed that Pennsylvania had 633 instances of toxic waste discharges that exceeded permissible limits. The type of discharge varied throughout the state, but included some of the following contaminants:
Remarkably, the current administration has taken steps to allow steam electric and coal-fired plants to discharge more waste into waterways. It also seeks to repeal the Clean Water Rule, enacted in 2015, and replace it with a rule that is more pro-business and permissive.
Texas was ranked worst among the 50 states in terms of discharges that exceeded the limits permitted by the state regulating body. In Texas, there were 938 instances of permitting violations. Pennsylvania did have more complete records than a number of other states, according to the study.
New Jersey was not included in PennEnvironment’s study at all because the necessary records were missing from the EPA’s database. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has not reported this data under the Clean Water Act to the EPA since 2012. As such, it is not clear where New Jersey would fall on the list.
We should be able to trust that state and federal regulators are doing their best to keep us safe from industrial pollution. Unfortunately, not all businesses adhere to the law, and excessive amounts of waste spill into Pennsylvania’s waterways near our homes, schools, and workplaces. If you have become ill or were diagnosed with a health condition and suspect that pollutants may have played a role, contact the experienced Philadelphia environmental lawyers at Williams Cedar today at 215-557-0099 or at 856-874-7500 or contact us online. We provide free consultations. With offices located in Philadelphia and Haddonfield, New Jersey we represent clients in Southeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and nationwide.