Water pollution is still a major problem, particularly here in Texas. The Express-News reported yesterday (emphasis added):
Texas leads the nation in the number of treatment plants and industrial facilities that fail to meet pollution standards for the wastewater they dump into rivers and streams, according to a report released Thursday.
The report, Troubled Waters, found that 318, or about 53 percent, of the state's major industrial and wastewater plants failed Clean Water Act standards in at least one of 12 reporting periods in 2005.
The data were compiled by U.S. PIRG and released by Environment Texas on the banks of the San Antonio River in Brackenridge Park on Thursday. Nationally, the groups are lobbying for Congress to pass the Clean Water Restoration Act, which would strengthen water quality protection.
Although Texas tops the nation in the number of facilities that violate water pollution rules, it falls in the middle of the pack when looking at the percentage of facilities that do so. The list is topped by smaller New England states like Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire, all of which had more than 75 percent of their plants earning violations.
Locally, Environment Texas has been leading efforts to change state pollution laws that, the group claims, makes it profitable to pollute in Texas.
A 2003 state auditor's report that looked at 80 pollution cases backs that contention. The auditor found that state fines for the pollution cases totaled less than $1.7 million, but the facilities involved benefited more than $8.6 million by not complying with regulations.
Glenn Shankle, executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, recommended changing the regulations to address the profit issue in 2006, but the commission has not adopted the recommendations. Agency spokeswoman Lisa Wheeler said the commission will likely take up the issue again early next year.
Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, who attended the news conference, promised to sponsor legislation next session to "take away the incentive for these worst polluters to make a profit at the expense of the rest of us."
It would be the fourth consecutive session such legislation is introduced, Environment Texas Director Luke Metzger said.
"Each time the Texas Chemical Council and others have been able to defeat the bill in committee," he said.
This state of our waterways should be an embarrassment for all Texans. I hope we can do better.
For the full Troubled Waters report, visit Environment Texas.