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Fifty-five percent of U.S. streams, rivers rated in 'poor' condition

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 27th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Fifty-five percent of the United States' streams and rivers are currently rated in "poor" condition and pose health risks to fish, other wildlife and humans, a report by the Environmental Protection Agency says.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - At the same time, the percentage of river and stream miles rated as "good" has declined. High levels of phosphorous and nitrogen are the chief reasons behind the unsatisfactory conditions.

Phosphorous and nitrogen are found in both commercial fertilizers and waste water, leading the EPA to call for reforms in agriculture and waste water practices.

More than half of the nation's rivers and streams are so polluted that they "do not support healthy populations of aquatic life," the EPA report says.

The report analyzed more than 25,000 water samples taken from nearly 2,000 waterways. The EPA rated 55 percent of the nation's rivers and streams as "poor."

High levels of phosphorous and nitrogen, both found in commercial fertilizers, have turned the waterways into less-than-hospitable places for fish and other wildlife.

"Forty percent of the nation's river and stream miles have high levels of phosphorus," the report stated. "Twenty-seven percent have high levels of nitrogen. Phosphorus and nitrogen pollution comes from excess fertilizers, wastewater and other sources, and can cause algae blooms, low oxygen levels, and more."

The EPA last conducted a similar survey in 2004. In comparison, the condition of the country's rivers and streams has gotten worse, with seven percent fewer stream miles now rated as in "good biological condition."

Only 21 percent of the total miles that make up the nation's rivers and streams were rated "good." The news is worrisome for the human population.

"In nine percent of U.S. river and stream miles, enterococci bacteria exceed thresholds protective of human health," the study stated. "Over 13,000 miles of rivers are found to have mercury in fish tissue at levels that exceed thresholds protective of human health."

The Pacific Northwest had the healthiest rivers and streams, with 26 percent rated "poor," the Southeast, especially states that bordered the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, was home to the country's least-healthy moving waterways. A whopping 71 percent of all rivers and streams in the Southeast were rated as "poor."

"This survey suggests that, although many actions are underway to protect our rivers and streams, we need to address the many sources of pollution - including runoff from urban areas, agricultural practices, and waste water - in order to ensure healthier waters for future generations," the study concluded.

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