Stay the hell away from Houston's waterways. Don't swim in them and for heaven's sake don't eat the fish.
That was essentially the message this morning at a news conference held alongside the Houston Ship Channel, hosted by Environment Texas, an environmental advocacy group, which complied data from the EPA to produce a report detailing just how many hazardous chemicals were dumped into the water in 2007.
According to the report, industrial facilities released 13 million pounds of toxic chemicals into waterways in Texas in 2007. Shell Oil dumped 1.2 million pounds of the nasty stuff into the Ship Channel and was the third largest polluter of toxic chemicals that year. Overall, the Ship Channel ranked as the 15th-worst waterway in the country, on the receiving end of nearly 3 million pounds of toxic crap.
"The results are clear," said Environment Texas Field Organizer Alejandro Savransky. "Industry is still using our waters as a dumping ground."
Or as Ted Parten, president of Texas Black Bass Unlimited, said, "We allow industry to treat our waterways like their private commode."
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Other facts unveiled today were that more than 250,000 pounds of toxic chemicals were dumped into Galveston Bay in 2007, making it the 13th-most toxic waterway in Texas. Companies also released about 6,150 pounds of cancer-causing chemicals into the Ship Channel; all by itself ExxonMobil's Baytown facility contributed about 25 percent of that. And finally, Texas ranks 4th in the nation in the amount of total toxins it dumps into its waterways.
Savransky said the effects of all of this is felt on our drinking water and that fish absorb the toxins before we eat them. The chemicals being dumped into the water are linked to cancer and developmental and reproductive disorders.
Many, such as Savransky and Parten, blame the EPA and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. They claim that both agencies should issue tougher permits, lower allowable limits of certain chemicals and punish violators with something more than just warning letters and meaningless fines. The EPA recently announced that many of TCEQ's permitting practices don't make the grade and are potentially illegal.
"I am totally convinced that TCEQ does not do its job," said Parten. "If we all work together, however, we can clean up the Ship Channel and other Texas waterways."