How Disgusting Is The Mississippi River

For years, the Mississippi River has been one of the most polluted rivers in America. Those who live near its banks are all too familiar with its unsightliness, its stench and the careless disregard many have for its cleanliness. Unfortunately, the situation is only getting worse, with untold numbers of waterborne diseases and pollutants polluting the precious ecosystem.

In 2020, the Mississippi Riverkeeper compiled analysis from environmental groups and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to report that more than 4,000 different pollution sources had severely contaminated the river by 2017. The results showed that nearly 2.6 billion liters of chemical and other substances were discharged into its waters.

According to the report, the main source of contamination comes from agricultural runoff – a result of excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers – and pollutant discharge from industrial activities, sewage systems and oil spills. As a result, a number of significant health hazards have arisen, including respiratory and skin problems, and a decrease in fish populations.

These issues are further compounded by a lack of government oversight. The EPA has done little to hold polluters accountable for their actions, meaning little has changed since the report’s release. While the EPA does have standards for water quality, this is only voluntary, and industrial firms often disregard them.

What’s even more concerning is that the pollution is not limited to the US. The river’s watershed extends into the Canadian province of Ontario, and a similar lack of oversight has been noted there. Reports have found alarming levels of mercury in the Great Lakes, which open up into the Mississippi River. This mercury is believed to have come from a variety of sources, including illegal contaminants in the river.

The situation is doubly alarming as the Mississippi River also serves as a source of drinking water for a number of towns and cities. The water pollution means harmful pathogens, metals and other toxins are entering the water supply, potentially putting the health of locals at risk.

It’s clear that something must be done to address the water pollution in the Mississippi River. It is only through collective action that we can find a solution and restore the river’s ecosystem to its former glory.

Industry Response

Unfortunately, the vast majority of industry and government officials have been slow to act on the problem. In 2020, a survey conducted by the Water Environment Federation (WEF) found that only 35 percent of firms had taken steps to reduce the harmful runoff from their operations.

The survey also found that nearly 50 percent of government regulators lacked the resources and knowledge to effectively police these polluters. This has allowed large industries and small businesses alike to carry out unchecked operations – leading to the severe water contamination across the river and its tributaries.

Moreover, even when action is taken, it is often too little too late. In June 2019, the Mississippi was hit by a major oil spill, with estimates putting the number of gallons at around 250,000. While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sought to contain it, the damage had already been done, as the oil had spread across multiple states.

Such incidents highlight the severity of the issue, and how much more must be done in order to reduce water pollution in the Mississippi. What’s more, the lack of adequate monitoring means it is impossible to tell just how much damage is being done, and how much further the pollution can go.

Public Opinion

The situation has caused an uproar among the public and environmental groups alike. Across the US, citizens are becoming increasingly outraged at the state of their river, and the lack of oversight from government agencies. Protests have broken out in several states to demand that something is done to address the water pollution in the Mississippi.

The issue has also become a topic of discussion amongst politicians. In 2020, a number of presidential candidates highlighted the Mississippi’s water pollution as a major campaign issue. And, while few concrete policies have been implemented, the public outcry has ensured that the river’s cleanliness is now, at least, a major talking point.

Environmental Efforts

On a brighter note, a number of grassroots environmental initiatives have sprung up in response to the water pollution in the Mississippi. In many cases, these are driven by NGOs and local Riverskeepers, who cooperate with other organisations to mitigate the effects of contamination.

For example, the Mississippi Riverkeeper has backed a number of schemes designed to reduce agricultural runoff, such as monitoring for illegal use of fertilizers and pesticides and developing better defences against flooding. In addition, the organisation has also created a Citizen Science project that allows members of the public to report any water pollution they encounter.

Various other groups and government agencies have followed suit. For example, the EPA has announced plans to create a comprehensive network of water quality monitoring station. In addition, several states have introduced regulations to restrict industrial pollution.

The Bigger Picture

Despite these efforts, it’s still difficult to get a full picture of how much damage has been done. The contamination extends far beyond the Mississippi, with reports of water pollution in neighbouring states and provinces.

This means that, while the US is taking steps to tackle the problem, it is still important to look at the bigger picture. Governments can only do so much, so it’s essential for everyday citizens to get involved and be aware of the potential hazards of river pollution.

Public Education

Public education is, undoubtedly, one of the most powerful tools when it comes to fighting water pollution. Through better education, more people will be aware of the importance of clean rivers and the effects of water pollution, which will in turn lead to an increased demand for action.

Fortunately, there are a number of campaigns and organisations dedicated to educating the public on the issue. The Mississippi Riverkeeper, for example, has an extensive school outreach program, which aims to educate young people on the dangers of water pollution.

In addition, many journalists, scientists and environmentalists have used their platforms to spread awareness on the matter. This has been crucial in ensuring the public is informed, and has led to a greater demand for change.

Future Outlook

It is clear that the situation in the Mississippi River is dire, and that more must be done to ensure it is no longer the most polluted river in the country. However, with increased public awareness and a commitment from government and industry to reduce water pollution, it is possible to restore the river’s ecosystem and safeguard the health of its inhabitants.

The fight against water pollution in the Mississippi is far from over, but there are steps that can be taken to preserve and protect this natural treasure. All it takes is for us to join forces and act – before it is too late.

Raymond Strasser is a passion-driven writer and researcher, dedicated to educating readers on the topic of world rivers. With a background in Geography and Environmental Studies, Raymond provides insightful pieces which explore the impact and importance that rivers have around the world.

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