green algae bloom in a riverConservation

Nitrates and carcinogenic pollution in the Pearl River Basin

Some time back there was a vigorous discussion on Roaming Parkers Facebook Group about algae blooms and fishkills and dead zones caused primarily by nitrate runoff from farms (fertilizer, animal poop, and blood) washing into Okeechobee in Florida or down the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico.

Then this issue showed up much closer to home.  Almost all of the following text is from a couple of threads of conversation on the Pearl Riverkeeper FB group, and they sourced their info from a 2015 EPA report…

Did you know that according to the EPA’s 2015 Toxic Release Inventory, the top 5 Pearl River Basin polluters dumped over 3 million pounds of toxic chemicals into our watershed?  Or that over 16,000 pounds of the chemicals were carcinogenic?

FB_IMG_1511976483526Three of these top 5 polluters were poultry processing businesses (Tyson, Peco, and Sanderson), who dumped over 2.8 million pounds of toxic chemicals  into the Pearl River watershed in 2015 alone

[ROAMING PARKERS EDIT – The vast majority of this was nitrate runoff (chicken poop and blood) which I don’t think counts as “toxic chemicals,” but you still don’t want it in the river!]

The environmental costs of this legally authorized dumping are paid not by the poultry industry but by the citizens of Mississippi and Louisiana.  External costs include:

  • Algae blooms and eutrophication (reduction in dissolved oxygen)
  • Loss of tourism and recreation revenue
  • Decline in property values
  • Commercial fishing losses due to fish kills
  • Increased drinking water treatment costs
  • Restoration costs to impaired waterbodies (almost every section of the Pearl River is listed as Impaired for nutrients)
  • Negative impacts to human health due to the heavy metals and pathogenic microbes in nitrate waste

For more information about toxic chemical discharges, including the authorized dumping of carcinogenic chemicals, check out the What’s in our Water? blog post?  The more you know, the better advocate you can be for our watershed.

To support Pearl Riverkeeper, please consider becoming a member.


Categories: Conservation, Nature