April 20, 2000
FOULS ITS OWN DRINKING WATER
"Mountain of Sludge" to Drain into Endangered Rio Grande River
Austin...Pollution from Texas facilities has contaminated the stretch
of the Rio Grande River which the City of Laredo relies upon for its
drinking water, according to documents released today by Texas Public
Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Texas PEER). Dangerous
levels of heavy metals and other toxics have contaminated the river
water and made the fish unfit to eat.
The Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission (TNRCC), the state's
pollution control agency, has yet to step up inspections or take concerted
enforcement action or promulgate public health protections despite
* the discovery by city officials of a "mountain of sludge" draining
into a river channel. Included in the mess where containers for muriatic
acid, a potent chemical used to clean air conditioners;
* studies showing arsenic levels in river fish more than 11 times
higher than federal limits, as well as dangerous levels of copper,
zinc and mercury in fish tissue; and
* the fact that TNRCC has known about conditions in that portion of
the Rio Grande since a 1994 agency study. Nonetheless, TNRCC is still
saying more studies are needed before it can act.
The Rio Grande is already classified as one of the top ten endangered
rivers in the U.S. by the conservation group American Rivers. The
studies by TNRCC show the greater threat to the Rio Grande comes from
industrial pollution by Texas facilities rather than raw sewage from
Mexico, as has been often alleged.
"Texas has developed the pollution profile of a Third World country,"
commented Texas PEER Coordinator Erin Rogers. "The fact that state
regulators can blithely ignore public health emergencies is a sure
indication that the situation in Laredo is far from unique."
Texas PEER is an alliance of employees working within the state resource
agencies, such as the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission
(TNRCC) and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD), to promote
professional ethics, ensure government accountability and protect
public health and the environment.
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· P.O. Box 1522; Austin TX ·
441-4941 · txpeer@PEER.org