The Polluted Water in Tennessee

Jul 10, 2024 at 03:36 pm by WGNS News

RUTHERFORD COUNTY, TN - According to data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), over 70% of freshwater lakes, ponds, reservoirs, and wetlands (by acreage) and over 42% of creeks, rivers, and streams (by mileage) are considered too polluted for primary contact recreation, such as swimming. On average, there are nearly 35,000 waterborne illness cases caused by recreational water use in the U.S. every year.


Since being established in 1972, the Clean Water Act (CWA) has fallen short of its goal to make 100% of U.S. waters “fishable and swimmable,” in large part due to inefficient and insufficient water quality monitoring: Under the CWA, each state is supposed to assess all of its recreational-use lakes and rivers for impairments—to determine whether a body of water is polluted by various sources such as industrial waste, sewage, or agricultural runoff, rendering it unsuitable for its designated uses.

Unfortunately, the most recent figures show that only 19 states assessed even 50% of both their lakes and rivers for primary water contact recreation, which includes swimming.

Nationally, by acreage, 77.4% of lakes, ponds, reservoirs, and wetlands have been adequately assessed for primary water contact impairments. Of those, 70.6% were found to be unsuitable for swimming. Tennessee has assessed 93.6% of its recreational-use lakes, ponds, reservoirs, and wetlands. Of the waterways in Tennessee that have been assessed, 46.5% were found to be too polluted for swimming.


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