Forty years after adoption of the federal Clean Water Act, Wisconsin’s rivers are still being polluted. With 1.5 million pounds of toxins discharged into it in 2007, the hard working Wisconsin River has the dubious distinction of being the state’s most heavily polluted.
“Frankly, they (the discharged pollutants) don’t come as a surprise, because these are historic pollution problems,” says Dan Kohler with Wisconsin Environment. “But that doesn’t mean it’s not outrageous, to have 4.1 million pounds of toxic chemicals discharged from indsutrial facilities into our waterways in Wisconsin.”
And, Kohler notes, it’s not like any of the industries along the river are breaking the law: they have permits to discharge waste. Kohler say the permitting process needs an verhaul. “We need to see both state, and especially federal action to improve enforcement and the permitting progra, to clean up our waterways and prevent industrial discharges,” Kohler says, adding that while there has been some improvement on Wiscosnin’s rivers since the introduction of the Clean Water Act forty years ago, the new report shows just how much more work needs to be done.
Industrial pollution on the Wisconsin River has led to frequent fish kills and a fish consumption advisory for walleye, white bass and lake sturgeon due to the high levels of mercury and PCBs.