Monday, March 26, 2012

Not news: Genesee River (which runs through Rochester, NY) ranked 32nd most polluted river in the US.


Back in 1998, when I first began 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 to read the full report and here 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:

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:

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.”

No comments: