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EPA: Half of Rivers in U.S. Are Dirty

By Daniel Cherry | Published 01 Apr 2013 07:23pm | comments
More than half of the rivers in the U.S. are considered dirty by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Mississippi lies in the heart of the most affected area. 
 
The study places Mississippi in the Coastal Plains region, in which more than 70 percent of the rivers are deemed to be in poor condition.
 
Chris Campbell lives on the Ross Barnett Reservoir which is part of the Pearl River system. He says nearby developers who don't use any conservation methods are a constant headache.
 
"They're cutting every tree, scraping every blade of grass and then they're developing. Silt fences hold it sometimes, but sometimes they don't. But all I know is we get a half inch of rain and we get a ton of mud back in here."
 
Sedimentation from erosion is one of the key issues with Mississippi's rivers. Landowners and developers who clear plants and trees off their property are opening the door for sediment runoff. That's why conservation groups are promoting runoff prevention methods like silt fences.
 
Jeannine May with Keep the Rez Beautiful, an organization that works on upkeep of the Ross Barnett Reservoir,  describes the silt fence as a plastic fence that is put down about 6 inches or deeper into the ground to prevent contamination from this sediment.
 
"These are highly dispersive soils out here in this area which means they have little fine particles and when they leave the site when it rains they get into the water and they stay in the water a long time before they filter on out," says May.
 
Pollution is also causing problems in Mississippi's waterways. The report points to excess fertilizers running off into rivers, and much of that is coming from farms. Justin Fritscher with the Natural Resources Conservation Service says getting farmers to prevent fertilizer runoff is currently a major effort.
 
"It spurs phytoplankton growth and it causes algae to form, and then when the algae dies it takes all the oxygen out of the water. That can cause problems with fish, and then when the fish die it can cause other water quality problems. So the problems kind of multiply from there."
 
Although metropolitan and agriculture areas are big contributors, conservationists say private landowners need to be more mindful of what they allow to run off their property into streams. 
 

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