💦 A river that runs through NJ is considered one of the most polluted in the U.S.

💦 The river provides water to millions of people

💦Sewage overflow and climate change are two main causes of its pollution

Did you know that one of our rivers which provides drinking water to millions is considered to be one of the most polluted in the country?

The Delaware River, which runs through New Jersey, Delaware, New York, and Pennsylvania, provides water to over 17 million people, according to the National Park Services.

This major river in the Mid-Atlantic is the longest free-flowing river in the Eastern United States.

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area)

Aside from The Delaware Water Gap offering a variety of year-round recreation like hiking, paddling, fishing, and hunting, the river undeniably has a rich history attached to it.

Washington's Crossing

General George Washington and the Continental Army famously crossed the Delaware River on December 25-26, 1776 so that his army could attack an isolated garrison of Hessian troops in Trenton.

But despite its beauty, tranquil scenes, and an ideal spot for fall foliage, the Delaware River is one of the top 15 polluted rivers in the U.S., according to EcoCation.

A snowy but sunny scene along the Delaware River in Trenton. (Dan Zarrow, Townsquare Media)
A snowy but sunny scene along the Delaware River in Trenton. (Dan Zarrow, Townsquare Media)

According to the publication, river pollution in the nation has been an ongoing and concerning issue for years, posing health risks to those reliant on these rivers for drinking water. The Ohio River is considered to be the worst.

“Mercury and toxic chemicals pollute rivers in nearly every state,” EcoCation said. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), about 28% or 80,000 miles of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs are impaired due to pollution.

EcoCation put out a list of the top 15 most polluted rivers in the U.S. and the Delaware River ranked 14th on that list.

Dennis Malloy Photo
Dennis Malloy Photo

“The Delaware River, a vital waterway for the northeastern United States, contends with various threats, including sewage overflow and industrial waste. Climate change concerns loom large, further endangering the river’s well-being. This once-pristine river now demands our attention and dedicated efforts to preserve its ecological richness,” it said.

River pollution is caused by various human activities, EcoCation reported. These include industrial discharges, agricultural runoff, sewage and wastewater, mining activities, urban development, climate change, and deforestation.

(Dennis Malloy/Townsquare Media)
(Dennis Malloy/Townsquare Media)

In 2012, The Delaware River was named the 5th most polluted river in the U.S., according to two environmental activist groups, Penn Environment and Environment New Jersey, and reported by NJ.com. Both groups claimed that there were about 7 to 10 million pounds of toxic chemicals flowing through the waterways due to dumping by DuPont Chambers Works.

In 2015, the EPA saw the Delaware River as a concern for mass pollution, after there were accusations that the river met standards made illegal by the Clean Water Act.

Kayaking on the Delaware River
Dino Flammia, Townsquare Media NJ

The basis of the Clean Water Act was enacted in 1948 but it was reorganized and expanded in 1972. Under the CWA, the EPA implemented pollution control programs such as setting wastewater standards for the industry. Part of the CWA explains how conditions of the river should be stable enough for fishing and swimming.

For a list of the EcoCation's 15 Most Polluted Rivers in the U.S., and for ways on how to prevent river pollution, visit here.

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