Water Pollution

Shandel Williams

China water

China’s hazardous smog is an in-your-face and choke-your-lungs kind of problem—hard to miss, particularly when air quality soars to severely polluted levels, as it did in Beijing today (Nov.19). But an equally dire environmental threat is the alarmingly low quality of China’s water resources. \Although China’s air pollution keeps making headlines, its water pollution is just as urgent a problem. One-fifth of the country’s rivers are toxic, while two-fifths are classified as seriously polluted. In 2012 more than half of China’s cities had water that was “poor” or “very poor”. Last week China’s ministry of environmental protection announced a trillion-yuan (US$320 billion) plan to start dealing with this urgent issue.

Oklahoma water

The battle over a toxic Oklahoma dumpsite has taken a remarkable turn. Three years ago, 6 Investigates told you about pollution problems in Bokoshe, in LeFlore County. People there claim they are being poisoned by a coal ash disposal site. The local power plant, AES Shady Point, has dumped enough coal ash there to build a 20-acre mountain less than a mile from town. It's loaded with chemicals like arsenic, mercury, chromium and lead, all of which are known to cause cancer.

But residents have just learned wastewater from the oil and gas process called fracking has added to the contamination, and they say it's reached Oklahoma's underground drinking water.

In a class action lawsuit, Bokoshe residents are now suing nearly 50 companies including the dumpsite owners and oil and gas companies, claiming years of dumping coal ash and fracking wastewater created a critically dangerous threat to their health and property.

Bokoshe resident Dub Tolbert has led the fight to stop coal ash from being dumped there ever since the dumpsite became his next-door neighbor in 1998. Then, he discovered that the tanker trucks that so often lined the rural roads there had been dumping hundreds of millions of gallons of fracking wastewater in Bokoshe's dumpsite.

Fracking wastewater often contains high levels of salt and toxic chemicals. It's a by-product of fracking: pushing huge amounts of water, sand and chemicals underground to release oil and gas. When the fracking wastewater comes back up, it has to be disposed of very carefully.

New York City water

New York's abundant rivers, streams, lakes and coastal waters are used for recreation, fishing, tourism, agriculture and manufacturing. Dams and other infrastructure help us manage our waters.

Though plentiful, the water resources of the state are threatened by chemical contaminants and other pollutants from a wide range of sources.

DEC provides various programs that track the quality of the waters, identify and investigate sources of pollution, control these sources and develop strategies to address water quality threats. DEC programs regulate and provide guidance on water supply withdrawal. DEC also manages floodplains and coastal areas to reduce flood risk to protect New Yorkers from coastal and inland flooding.