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Two Pollutions

The Mississippi River used to be a favorite place to go swimming. Now the river is considered unfit to swim in, and there are warnings not to eat the fish. Why is this so? Our river water has been polluted by chemical run-off and also by companies discharging their industrial wastes into the river – for free!

Run-off Pollution

Residential yards, construction sites, and parking lots — these everyday things may seem harmless but in fact might be causing problems for our water. When land is converted from natural areas to developed urban areas, pavement and rooftops replace grass and trees. Water flows over driveways, streets and parking lots, taking with it everything that is in its path. This "runoff" is deposited, via storm sewers, into nearby lakes, creeks and rivers. Because there is not a single source, such as a pipe carrying pollution, it is called Non-Point Source pollution. This non-point source pollution can contain sediment, debris, fertilizers, pesticides, leaves, grass clippings, motor oil or pet waste. Small amounts of these materials entering a lake or river are not generally considered harmful. But when these small amounts are multiplied by thousands or tens of thousands they can cause serious water quality problems.

One way to think about it is that everybody has riverfront property. How can this be so? Because every street has a drain system, and those drains lead directly into the river. Everyone has the potential to affect water quality, whether or not they actually live on the river or a streambank.

Discharge Pollution

Companies along the river are allowed to discharge a certain amount of pollutants into the river. Each state has different requirements for the levels of toxic substances, so sometimes companies right across from each other are regulated by different laws and one can be dumping considerably more pollutants into the river.

Find out what companies are near you zip code, and how clean your neighbors are being! An excellent and fun web site to visit is called The Scorecard, and you can type in your own zip codes to see the situation around your stretch of the river:

Visit Confluence Greenway Website



One River Mississippi

















St. Louis / E. St. Louis : Environmental Issues
June 24