America’s polluted harbors: Swimming in filth?
It’s gross, but sewers overflowing with ordinary rainwater can cause massive amounts of human and animal excrement to flow into the sea. Such is the case in the city of Newport in the state of Rhode Island, U.S.A., where the sewer system is old and vulnerable to heavy rains, which can cause sewage to overflow into the city’s harbor. What’s more is that ordinary storm drains, like the ones attached to your roof to drain away rainwater, carry animal excrement, oil and other toxins onto the beaches.
Newport, a New England resort town known for its historic past and stately mansions, is far from alone when it comes to American cities with similar water problems, among them New York City, Cincinnati and Los Angeles. It is a problem of the enforcement of regulations, which made these dangerous levels of toxicity illegal as far back as the 1970s with the enactment of the Clean Water Act. After all this time, especially in wealthy communities like Newport, it is hard to believe that the Clean Water Act has never been properly enforced. ‘Dilution was the solution to pollution’, says Newport’s utility director.
Beaches in Newport have been closed and tourism threatened. There just isn’t enough public money – even after the Obama administration’s stimulus bill – to deal with America’s polluted water problems. After all, no one wants to take a holiday only to have their kids swim in human and animal stool. I wouldn’t, anyway.
Watch the latest installment of the New York Times ‘Toxic Waters’ video series online here and be sure to read the latest NYT ‘Toxic Waters’ article (from November 22nd) entitled ‘As Sewers Fill, Waste Poisons Waterways’.
By Graham Land