Harris County Leads the Nation in Polluting Facilities. So We’ve Got That Going for Us.

A report released earlier this week lists Harris County as one of the top ten water polluters in the nation. It also reveals a dirty secret about our beloved city.

The report – Troubled Waters – comes out just before the 35th anniversary of the federal Clean Water Act, which aimed to make all U.S. waterways safe for fishing and swimming by, uh, 1983. Turns out, here in 2007, big industry is still dumping lots of chemicals and raw sewage in the water and the government ain't doing jack about it. Over half the waterways in Texas are listed as too dirty for recreational use.

Harris County, the only Texas county to make the top ten, has more polluting facilities than any other place in the nation. Our number is 96, and Los Angeles County takes second place with 22. In examining the report, we found the likely candidates - Shell Oil, Exxon Mobile, an array of chemical companies – contributing to our county's filth. But looking closer, we see that the City of Houston has been dumping all sorts of nasty stuff all over town, from Buffalo Bayou to Turkey Creek.

The report's author, Environment Texas, an Austin-based non-profit, says things have gotten worse in the last six years and place heavy blame on George W. Bush. The report points out that the administration has weakened the Clean Water Act by, among other things, removing restrictions on coal mining and - here's a shocker - the oil and gas industry.

Environment Texas is pushing congress to reverse the damage by passing the Clean Water Restoration Act. Colin McKellips, a field associate with Environment Texas, says if you care about clean water, contact your state representative to make sure they're signed on to the new act.

And to see if your favorite corporation is on the list of polluters, you can read the full report at here. -- Paul Knight