EPA Reports 40 Percent of Nation's Waterways Polluted

July 7, 2000

Forty percent of the nation's waterways are still too polluted for fishing and swimming, according to a new report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The figure is based on a 1998 assessment by state agencies, and remains consistent with last decade's figures.

Runoff from agricultural lands and urban areas form the primary source of water pollution, while the leading pollutants are bacteria, siltation, metals, the nutrients phosphorous and nitrogen.

State agencies assessed one-third of the nation's waterways, including half of all lakes, reservoirs and ponds. More than 290,000 miles of 840,000 miles of assessed rivers and streams did not meet water quality standards, while 96 percent of the assessed Great Lakes' shoreline miles were polluted. However, the agencies found that ground water quality generally remains good.

A fact sheet and full report of the National Water Quality Inventory 1998 are available at www.epa.gov/ow/nation or by calling EPA's National Service Center for Environmental Publications at 1-800-490-9198.

(Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

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