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Report: Millions of Gallons of Toxic Pollution in IL Waterways

 Many of Illinois' streams, rivers and lakes are brewing with toxic chemicals, according to a new report.

Environment Illinois found that in 2012, industrial facilities dumped more than 6 million pounds of chemicals into Illinois waterways - the 13th highest amount among states. Spokeswoman Lisa Nikodem, the group's campaign director, said the sources of the chemicals include industrial agricultural facilities, power plants and petroleum refineries.

"It's a whole range of chemicals - such as ammonia, lead, chromium - a variety of things that can cause cancer, can cause developmental problems and reproductive problems," she said.

Nikodem said the largest offender in Illinois was Tyson Fresh Meats in Hillsdale, which disposed of more than 2.5 million pounds of polluted materials into the Lower Rock River watershed. The report found that nationally, industry dumped 206 million pounds of chemicals into waterways in 2012.

Nikodem said the findings support her group's call for state and federal policies that move industrial polluters away from using toxic chemicals when safer alternatives are available. She said she thinks portions of the Clean Water Act need to be renewed or strengthened, including a rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to restore protections for streams, wetlands and other waterways.

"It's a lot of these petroleum refineries that are contributing these toxic chemicals," she said. "In fact, Exxon Mobil has threatened 'legal warfare' - which is their term - if the EPA were to move forward with these proposed rules."

Opponents say the proposal would hurt the economy, cost jobs and restrict landowners' rights, and could result in costly litigation. The public comment period on the proposed rule runs through the middle of October.

The report is online at environmentamericacenter.org.

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