NYT’s Toxic Waters series takes on ag polluters

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

In the latest installment of the Toxic Waters series, The New York Times‘ Charles Duhigg turns his investigative spotlight toward agricultural runoff and the havoc it has wrought upon water supplies around the country.

runoff
Photo by Kordite via Flickr

According to Duhigg, “runoff from all but the largest farms is essentially unregulated by many of the federal laws intended to prevent pollution and protect drinking water sources” and regulation and enforcement are instead left up to local authorities, who often lack the necessary resources.

Duhigg makes the scope of the contamination clear:

“Agricultural runoff is the single largest source of water pollution in the nation’s rivers and streams, according to the E.P.A. An estimated 19.5 million Americans fall ill each year from waterborne parasites, viruses or bacteria, including those stemming from human and animal waste, according to a study published last year in the scientific journal Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology.”

In the end, Duhigg seems to indicate that the only real hope of reigning in this contamination lies in overcoming powerful, entrenched ag interests and giving the E.P.A. broader powers to regulate agriculture.

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