Monday, August 13, 2018

Map zeroes in on Delaware River watershed pollution

A new interactive map shows threats, old and new, to the vital water source. It underlines challenges that remain for a river that ‘has come back from the brink’

Tom Johnson reports for NJ Spotlight:

Delaware River
Credit: Steve Guttman/Flickr CC
Delaware River
It is the longest free-flowing river east of the Mississippi, the source of drinking water for more than 15 million people and a dynamic natural resource providing billions of dollars in economic activity.
But the Delaware River Watershed faces numerous threats from both longstanding and persistent pollution. A new interactive map developed by Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center aims to pinpoint those challenges and help identify ways to address them.
“The Delaware River is a vital source of water for drinking, wildlife, and recreation,’’ said John Rumpier, clean-water program director at Environment America Research & Policy Center. “But as our map shows, we still have work to do to ensure that the watershed is — and remains — as clean as we want it to be.’’

Map of Delaware River Basin showing sites of industrial pollution and hazardous waste: Click to expand/collapse
The challenges, identified in the interactive map, are fourfold, perhaps the most troublesome involving urban runoff fouling the Delaware River and its 216 tributaries. The map also looks at the pollution threats from hundreds of industrial facilities discharging wastewater into the basin, and thousands of hazardous-waste sites in the region, including more than 100 Superfund sites.
While investments have led to improvements in water quality, more than 250 sewage-treatment plants remain to discharge effluent in the watershed. Many are antiquated, still putting much pollution into the river and other waters, according to Rumpier. At another 350 locations, combined sewer-overflow systems carry stormwater and raw sewage into waterways during times of heavy rain.
Finally, the map identifies the legacy of the region’s reliance on fossil fuels — more than 150 active and abandoned coal mines in eastern Pennsylvania and the millions of barrels of oil shipped on the Delaware each year.

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