SM BEACH — A state environmental advocacy group is calling on federal officials to strengthen water quality regulations following the release of a report that found more than 232 million pounds of toxic chemicals have been dumped into the nation’s rivers, oceans and lakes, including large discharges into the Santa Monica Bay.
Titled “Wasting Our Waterways: Industrial Toxic Pollution and the Unfulfilled Promise of the Clean Water Act,” the study by Environment California details the types of toxic chemicals that have polluted approximately 1,900 different bodies of water across the country by industrial facilities because of what advocates believe are loopholes in federal laws.
“Despite the clear intent of the Clean Water Act, polluters continue to use our waterways as dumping grounds for toxic chemicals,” Gina Goodhill, oceans advocate for Environment California, said during a press conference next to the Santa Monica Pier on Thursday.
Using data from the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2007 Toxics Release Inventory, the citizen-based advocacy organization found that more than 2.2 million pounds of toxic chemicals were dumped into the Pacific Ocean by Evergreen Pulp Enterprises, which is located on the northern coast of California. Locally, the Chevron plant in El Segundo let 386,773 pounds of toxins flow into the Santa Monica Bay, ranking it third in the country for such discharges, according to the report.
The pollutants include lead, mercury and dioxin, contaminating the drinking water and infusing the fish that people eat, Goodhill said.
Exposure to the chemicals has been known to cause cancer, developmental and reproductive disorders.
“No one should be surprised but they should be outraged,” Goodhill said.
The organization suggests that industrial facilities reduce their toxic discharges by switching from hazardous chemicals to more eco-friendly alternatives, noting that everything from huge corporations to small local dry cleaners have made the switch.
Federal and state agencies need to issue stringent numeric limits for each type of toxic pollution that is discharged, reducing those limits over time and enforcing violations with penalties, not warning letters, Goodhill said.
She adds that federal authorities should clarify that the Clean Water Act applies to all waterways, including the thousands of smaller streams whose jurisdiction under the law have recently been called into question.
“We need to start implementing the Clean Water Act the way it was meant to be implemented,” she said. “That means making all of our waters fishable and swimmable to ensure that no toxic discharges are in our waterways.”