Back in 1998, when I first began RochesterEnvironment.com to collect and access all the environmental issues surrounding one community—Rochester, NY—I created a page called Genesee River. I created it because some major articles and reports had just come out that the river that runs through Rochester, NY was very toxic and polluted. Here is an entry I posted on my web page back in the day (though none of the links work anymore):
Genesee River ranks "second among U.S. rivers that had cancer-causing chemicals dumped into them during a recent five-year period"--Rochester Digital Edition article: (Genesee earns grim ranking ), according to The State Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs). Go here http://www.pirg.org/enviro/toxics/waters98/index.htm to read the full report and herehttp://www.pirg.org/enviro/toxics/waters98/table10.htm to see the how the Genesee River stacks up against other U.S. Rivers.
So, it’s interesting that, fourteen years later, the Genesee River has again hit the news:
- Our Little Muddy makes the list | 520 – An Environmental Blog | Rochester Democrat and Chronicle The Genesee River ranked 32 among American rivers in total toxic discharges in 2010, according to a released today by Environment New York. The Seneca River, which flows eastward from the foot of Seneca Lake, was 33. A quick-and-dirty check of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data showed that about 97 percent of the 1,393,996 pounds of discharges were nitrate compounds from Eastman Kodak Co. The rest, or nearly all the rest, were nitrate compounds from Friendship Dairy in Allegany County. Nitrates’ worst offense is feeding algal growth and contributing to degradation of water quality, according to the report. (March 23, 2012) 520 – An Environmental Blog | Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
- Genesee River named one of the nation's dirtiest | www.WHEC.com An environmental group says the Genesee River is one of the most toxic rivers in the country. "Environment New York" ranked the Genesee the 32nd dirtiest river in the country, saying it contains far too many toxic chemicals. (March 23, 2012) Rochester, NY News | www.WHEC.com
- America’s Waterways received 226 Million Pounds of Toxic Chemicals | Environment America Washington, D.C.–Five states—Indiana, Virginia, Nebraska, Texas, and Georgia—account for forty percent of the total amountof toxic discharges to U.S. waterways in 2010, according to a new report released today by Environment America. Wasting Our Waterways: Industrial Toxic Pollution and the Unfulfilled Promise of the Clean Water Act also reports that 226 million pounds oftoxic chemicals were discharged into 1,400 waterways across the country. “America’s waterways are a polluter’s paradise right now. Polluters dumped226million pounds of toxic chemicals into our lakes, rivers and streams in 2010,” said Shelley Vinyard, Clean Water Advocate with Environment America. “We must turn the tide of toxic pollution by restoring Clean Water Act protections to our waterways.” (March 22, 2012) Environment America
- Clear water still a dream in Hudson River as group names it 24th most polluted - Times Union ALBANY — After four decades of federal law meant to clean the nation's rivers and lakes, the Hudson River remains the 24th most polluted river in the United States, according to a report released Friday by an environmental group. The report named the Finch Paper plant in Glens Falls as the source of nearly 90 percent of industrial chemical pollution that went into the river in 2010, based on records from the federal Toxic Release Inventory. Two other New York rivers also made the list of the nation's top 40 most-polluted rivers: the Genesee, which flows through Rochester, ranked 32nd; the Seneca, north of the Finger Lakes, ranked 33rd. Each had about 1.4 million pounds of pollution, the report said. (March 24, 2012) Albany, Troy, Schenectady, Saratoga News, Weather, Sports, Capitol | timesunion.com - Times Union
- Report: Genesee, Seneca rivers rank among most polluted | Rochester Business Journal New York business news and information The Genesee River ranks 32nd among the most polluted rivers and lakes in the country, a study released Friday by a New York City environmental advocacy group shows. The Genesee, Seneca and Hudson rivers in New York all are among the top 40 among more than 1,900 rivers, streams and lakes analyzed, the study found. (March 23, 2012) Home | Rochester Business Journal New York business news and information
It’s interesting because in the fourteen year since the first reports there has been little local news about the Genesee River. No local media editors felt it was necessary to send in investigative reporters to see what the state of the Genesee River actually was, or whether any of our state agencies were going to clean it up. Obviously, we haven’t cleaned it up, which is why our dirty little river is splashed all over the headlines today.
Our leading print media have mentioned the study coming out of the University of Rochester, but this story came out last year—thirteen years after reports on how toxic the Genesee Rivers was:
- UR receives grant to study pollution in river | Democrat and Chronicle | democratandchronicle.com Because of high levels of pollutants and overfishing, the sturgeon had long disappeared from the northern part of the Genesee River that empties into Lake Ontario. But many of the 1,900 sturgeon that were put into this stretch of the Genesee beginning in 2003 seem to have done well — a sign, federal and local officials say, that cleanup efforts are starting to pay off. Now, a $308,000 federal grant to the University of Rochester will fund a study conducted over the next three years that takes blood samples from the fish to determine the concentration of various pollutants. (October 18, 2011) Democrat and Chronicle | Rochester news, community, entertainment, yellow pages and classifieds. Serving Rochester, New York | democratandchronicle.com
- ENVIRONMENT: Fishing for water-quality clues - News Articles - Rochester City Newspaper Sturgeon and the Genesee River may be coming full circle. Pollution played a role in nearly wiping out the lower Genesee's sturgeon population, and now the prehistoric-looking fish may help researchers track the river's health over the next century. Improved conditions in the lower Genesee made it possible for the US Geological Survey, a federal scientific agency, to reintroduce sturgeon into the river in 2003. The fish are doing well and that's a positive sign for the river's environmental health, says Jeff Wyatt, chair of the Department of Comparative Medicine at the University of Rochester's School of Medicine and Dentistry. (September 14, 2011) Rochester NY Local News, Rochester NY Politics, NY News Coverage, Rochester NY Opinion - Rochester City Newspaper
All of this is instructive as to the value of environmental reporting. It’s not really helpful for the media to merely throw a story up on the front pages that their river is one of the most toxic in the country, then wait fourteen years to see if it has any legs. The job of our media is not simply to post sports scores and car accidents. The job of the media is to be our eyes and ears on issues we need to know. We need to know the state of our environment, and we need to know if our government is acting to protect our health and our environment.
It’s instructive because this Genesee River issue is like Climate Change. The point of discovering potential threats to our health and environment is to make sure they are addressed, not merely publicized to make money. Now that we know, our media should grab on to this issue until that river of ours is cleaned up. The point about Climate Change is that it too splashes onto the media once in awhile and then disappears until one day it makes the headlines again.
When Climate Change finally ranks on the first page of our media, like sports scores continually do, it might be too late to do anything about it. Responsible environmental reporting needs to investigate and educate the public on important environmental issues like our water’s health and our warming planet. Media editors need to reeducate themselves about what environmental issues mean. If our media editors were really on the job, there is no way any one of the presidential candidates currently running away from the issue of Climate Change would be able to do so.
Take heed: You can read the full report on the state of our waters and our river’s ranking here:
Wasting Our Waterways 2012 | Environment America Released by: Environment America Research and Policy Center Release date: Thursday, March 22, 2012 > Read News Release > Download Report (PDF) “Industrial facilities continue to dump millions of pounds of toxic chemicals into America’s rivers, streams, lakes and ocean waters each year – threatening both the environment and human health. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), pollution from industrial facilities is responsible for threatening or fouling water quality in more than 14,000 miles of rivers and more than 220,000 acres of lakes, ponds and estuaries nationwide.”