River is one of most polluted in the country

April 12, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE

Staff Writer

The New River is one of the most polluted waterways in the country, according to recent studies conducted by the California Environmental Protection Agency and the California Regional Water Quality Control Board.

"The New River is severely polluted by pathogens as indicated by fecal coliforms and E. coli bacteria," according to a board study.

It's especially polluted at points closest to the border.

"Volatile organic chemicals are routinely present in the New River immediately downstream from the international boundary with Mexico at concentrates that violate basin plan objectives," according to report by the Colorado River Basin Regional Control Board.


Most of the vile goo in the river is dumped in by Mexican wastewater plants or maquiladoras and some of the nasty bits come from U.S. wastewater plants and feedlots, according to officials on both sides of the border.

When New River water is tested near the stretch where it enters the Salton Sea the concentration of volatile chemicals is far lower, according to the regional board report.

People who have floated in the river or wade in its waters can be affected by nausea, lung irritation, skin rash, vomiting and dizziness. That's why Border Patrol agents normally do not go into the water to apprehend people they suspect to be illegal immigrants, although they are not prohibited from doing so.

A recent study by North Carolina State University indicated repeated exposure to compounds in the river could result in cancer, liver and kidney damage, disorders of the nervous system, damage to the immune system and birth defects.

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