Most Endangered Rivers of 2005 Announced;
Report Available to the Public at www.americanrivers.org
Contact: Eric Eckl or Betsy Otto, 202-347-7550, both of
Published April 13, 2005
WASHINGTON, April 13 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Some 860 billion
gallons of untreated sewage foul America's rivers with
pollution and make millions of American sick each year,
but the federal government has turned its back on the
problem, warned American Rivers with the release of its
2005 America's Most Endangered Rivers report. These problems
are particularly apparent -- and poised to get worse --
along the Susquehanna River, which tops this year's list
of rivers facing uncertain futures and crucial turning
The group called on federal lawmakers to reject the cuts
in clean water investment proposed by the Bush administration
and step up their oversight of how the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency carries out its water protection responsibilities.
"All across America, rivers link one town's toilets
to the next town's faucets," said Rebecca R. Wodder,
president of American Rivers. "And when it rains,
sewage pours into those rivers, billions of gallons of
it every year."
Sewer spills, poor treatment, and other symptoms of a
failing system can be found all across the country, including
four of the rivers on this year's list:
-- Hundreds of outfall pipes dump raw sewage directly
into the Susquehanna River (No. 1), fouling the river
and Chesapeake Bay downstream, but Washington is cutting
the assistance needed to remedy the problem.
-- If Denver succeeds in withdrawing more water from
the Fraser River (No. 3) in Colorado, there won't be enough
flow left over to dilute treated sewage to safe levels
for swimming and fishing.
-- The sewage treatment plant in Mountain City, Tennessee,
is so outdated that treatment plant operators have been
caught spreading sludge along Roan Creek (No. 5) in the
middle of the night.
-- Sewage treatment plants along Ohio's Little Miami
River (No. 7), can't handle their current volumes but
new roads and development threaten to make the problem
Sewer spills and overflows pose a significant public
health risk. Untreated human sewage teems with salmonella,
hepatitis, dysentery, cryptosporidium, and many other
infectious diseases. Scientists believe as many as 3.5
million Americans get sick each year after swimming, boating,
fishing, or otherwise touching water they thought was
safe. Between 1985 and 2000, the Centers for Disease Control
(CDC) documented 251 separate disease outbreaks and nearly
half a million cases of waterborne illness from polluted
drinking water in the United States.
"Kids in America should be able to enjoy their neighborhood
creeks and rivers without playmates like salmonella, hepatitis,
and dysentery," Wodder said.
Many American cities have sewage pipe networks and plants
that date to the early 1970s or earlier, and this aging
infrastructure is wearing out even as treatment needs
grow. There are 600,000 miles of sewer pipes across the
country. More than 30 percent of them will be in poor
or very poor condition by the year 2020. In 2001, The
American Society of Civil Engineers gave America's wastewater
infrastructure a "D" grade overall. Overdevelopment
contributes to the problem. As urban areas sprawl into
the countryside, more stormwater surges into sewers --
and more pollution spews out.
The federal government only spends about a penny per
day per U.S. resident to address this problem, but the
Bush administration has asked Congress to slash clean
water measures by more than $500 million in the coming
year. This would take federal assistance to an all time
low. The EPA has also proposed a "dumping policy,"
allowing sewage treatment plants to skip certain treatment
steps when it was raining -- discharging wastewater with
high concentrations of germs.
"It wasn't long ago, the deadly waterborne illness,
Cryptosporidium, was found near Milwaukee and was traced
back to a sewage dumping occurrence that would be allowed
under this proposal. This contamination killed over 100
people and sickened over 400,000," said Rep. Bart
Stupak (D-Mich.-1st) said in March when introducing the
Save Our Waters from Sewage Act. "Billions of gallons
of human waste are dumped into our Great Lakes and other
water resources each year. This sort of outbreak can happen
again if we don't act now to prevent the EPA from rolling
back our clean water standards."
As a first step towards rectifying this situation, American
Rivers called on Congress to reject further cuts and invest
more in the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to $3.2 billion
in 2006 and beyond. Increasing investment to $10.85 per
citizen per year would be a good start, but it's not enough.
According to American Rivers, lawmakers should also establish
a dedicated federal trust fund to disperse aid to water
utilities on a consistent basis -- something Congress
has already done for airports, barges, and federal highways.
As a second step, Congress should invest federal dollars
smarter -- encouraging reforestation and wetlands restoration,
and reforming road construction practices to effectively
expand the capacity and extend the life of existing systems
by reducing the volume of stormwater they have to handle,
the group said.
Following is American Rivers' list of America's Most
Endangered Rivers of 2005:
-- No. 1 Susquehanna River (NY, PA, MD)
Contact: Sara Nicholas, (717) 232-8355
Throughout the Susquehanna River watershed, aging sewer
systems discharge enormous volumes of raw or poorly treated
sewage, which eventually flow into the Chesapeake Bay.
Unless local, state and federal lawmakers invest in prevention
and cleanup, the Susquehanna will remain among the nation's
dirtiest rivers and more and more of Chesapeake Bay will
become a dead zone.
-- No. 2 McCrystal Creek (NM)
Contact: Chad Smith, (402) 423-7930
McCrystal Creek and much of the pristine Valle Vidal
area that surrounds it face the prospect of intrusive
coal bed methane drilling. Unless the U.S. Forest Service
resists White House arm-twisting, the agency's promise
to protect McCrystal Creek will be the next -- but probably
not the last -- promise to posterity that will be broken
in the quest for fossil fuels.
-- No. 3 Fraser River (CO)
Contact: Jamie Mierau, (202) 347-7550 ext. 3003
For years, the Denver Water Board has siphoned 65 percent
of the Fraser River's water and piped it across the mountains
to fuel runaway development along the Front Range. Now
it plans to take most of the rest. Unless the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers puts a stop to the water board's plans,
there won't be much left in the river except effluent
from local sewage plants.
-- No. 4 Skykomish River (WA)
Contact: Amy Souers Kober, (206) 213-0330 ext. 23
Runaway development threatens to foul the clear waters
of the Skykomish River, known for its fishing and other
outdoor activities, working farms, forests, and rural
quality of life. Unless the Snohomish County Council plans
responsibly for growth and acts to protect the river,
the very characteristics that make the valley so attractive
to its residents could be lost forever.
-- No. 5 Roan Creek (TN)
Contact: Eric Eckl, (202) 347-7550 ext. 3023
The streams and rivers of the Appalachian Mountains have
largely escaped the scourge of factory dairy farming --
but that may be about to change for Tennessee's Roan Creek.
Unless Tennessee officials establish and enforce stricter
rules, cow manure will foul the stream, expose residents
to disease, and jeopardize the region's economic prospects.
-- No. 6 Santee River (SC)
Contact: Gerrit Jobsis, (803) 771-7114
For decades, an enormous hydropower dam complex has drained
one of the East Coast's largest rivers virtually dry.
Unless state regulators stand up to a powerful and uncooperative
utility and demand that some of that water be put back,
the Santee will continue to be South Carolina's "forgotten
-- No. 7 Little Miami River (OH)
Contact: Quinn McKew, (202) 347-7550 ext. 3069
Proposed wastewater plant expansions and new bridges
and roads are poised to pollute Ohio's Little Miami River
with more sewage, stormwater, chemicals, and trash. Unless
the state insists on modern sewage treatment and sensible
transportation planning, the crown jewel of Cincinnati's
and southwestern Ohio's outdoor destinations could be
sullied beyond recovery.
-- No. 8 Tuolumne River (CA)
Contact: Steve Rothert, (530) 478-5672
The City of San Francisco has proposed a new pipeline
that could increase the water it removes from the Tuolumne
River by as much as 70 percent. Additional diversions
would deplete 100 miles of productive, pristine river
habitat and compound pollution problems in San Francisco
Bay. Unless San Francisco invests in making its existing
supplies go further, California could lose some of its
best salmon and steelhead runs, world-class outdoor recreation,
and the economic diversity this river now provides.
-- No. 9 Price River (UT)
Contact: Gary Belan, (202) 347-7550 ext. 3027
Near the remote headwaters of the Price River in central
Utah, the Bureau of Reclamation is under pressure to build
a dam and reservoir to take away one community's water
and pipe it over the mountains to another. Unless the
local water district comes to its senses and the Forest
Service strengthens watershed protections, communities
along the Price River could lose their water, their wildlife,
and their hopes for a more prosperous future.
-- No. 10 Santa Clara River (CA)
Contact: Serena McClain, (202) 347-7550 ext. 3004
Until recent years, the Santa Clara River has largely
escaped the intense development transforming most of Southern
California, but developers are now eyeing the river and
adjacent lands for a massive expanse of new condominiums
and shopping centers. Unless regulators hold new development
to high standards, Southern California will lose its last
significant natural river.