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COLUMBUS JUNCTION - Factories dumped nearly 3.5 million pounds of toxic chemicals into Iowa's waterways in 2007, according to a report released Wednesday by an environmental group.
Tyson Fresh Meats of Columbus Junction released more than a third of the annual Iowa total 1,338,270 pounds discharged into the Iowa and Cedar rivers, said Eric Nost, state associate with Environment Iowa.
The report compiles toxic chemical releases reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) for 2007, the most recent data available.
Toxic chemicals adversely affect fish and wildlife and can impact human health, with the potential to trigger cancer, reproductive and developmental problems, according to the report.
Nationwide, factories released 232 million pounds of toxic chemicals in 2007. The Ohio River ranked first as a recipient of toxic discharges, followed by the New River in West Virginia and the Mississippi River. Other than the Mississippi (third) and Missouri (eighth), none of Iowa's rivers or lakes made the top 50 list.
Among states, Iowa ranked 21st in total volume of toxic discharges to waterways. Indiana led the nation with 27 million pounds. Nevada, with just 144 pounds, had the best record.
In Iowa, the leading waterway recipients (with pounds in parentheses) were the Iowa River (805,000, the Des Moines River (621,000), the Cedar River (586,000 pounds), the Mississippi River (553,000), the Raccoon River (391,000) and the Yellow River (150,000).
Companies with Eastern Iowa connections cited in the report, in addition to Tyson, include Agriprocessors Inc. of Postville (now Agri-Star) for discharging into the Yellow River; Associated Milk Producers of Arlington for discharging into Bruce Creek; the Lansing Power Station at Lansing for discharging into the Mississippi River; Cambrex Inc. of Charles City, PMX Industries of Cedar Rapids, Prairie Creek Generating Station of Cedar Rapids and John Deere Waterloo Tractor Works, all for discharging into the Cedar River; Exide Technologies of Manchester for discharging into the Maquoketa River; and BP Products North America of Peosta for discharging into Catfish Creek.
Nitrates account for 90 percent of the volume of all TRI discharges, the report said.
To curb toxic pollution, Environment Iowa recommends that factories find safer alternatives to hazardous chemicals and that the EPA and state agencies issue and enforce permits with strict numeric limits for toxic pollutants.
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