A recent analysis of data self-reported by industry indicates more than 1.5 million pounds of toxic chemicals were dumped into the Coosa River in 2017, according to a release from Coosa Riverkeeper. 

Coosa Riverkeeper analyzed the most recent publicly available data to produce these rankings sourced from EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory. 

“Despite the level of harm to both wildlife and human health, most of the releases included on the Toxic Release Inventory are technically legal,” Coosa Riverkeeper staff riverkeeper Steven Dudley said.

“Even though this information is publicly available, the government makes little to no effort to inform the public about theses toxic chemicals in our waterways.”

Coosa Riverkeeper said it believes people have the right to know what’s in the water where they drink, fish and swim, according to a release.The discharging of toxic chemicals in the Coosa River is largely dominated by chicken processors, a power plant and a paper mill, the release said.

For the most part, the discharge of these chemicals is legally authorized and permitted by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management through its National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permitting system. 

The system was created in part to ultimately eliminate the discharge of pollution into rivers.

Of the 29 industries that self-reported discharging toxic chemicals into the Coosa Basin in 2017, 10 discharged more than 50 pounds of toxic chemicals total over the course of the year. 

On Lake Neely Henry, two chicken processing plants owned by Koch Foods near Gadsden were the largest dischargers of toxic waste in 2017, according to the release. The release stated these plants’ combined discharge of nitrate compounds accounts for 98% of toxic chemicals released into the Coosa.

On Lay Lake, Resolute Forest Products: Coosa Pines discharged 11 different toxic chemicals into the river including manganese, ammonia and formaldehyde, the release said. It was the largest discharger of cancer-causing chemicals on the entire Coosa River, according to the release.

Alabama Power’s Gaston Steam Plant has a permit to discharge seven known toxic chemicals into Lay Lake, the release stated.

“Coosa Riverkeeper chose to share this data with the public on Halloween because we think this information is quite scary,” Coosa Riverkeeper executive director Justinn Overton said in a statement released Oct. 31. 

“Although these industries are permitted to release these toxic chemicals into our river, we want to make sure the public isn’t tricked and they are made aware and the permits are enforced.”