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America's Most Polluted River

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Just when you think your urban fishing spots could be cleaner.....


The New River holds the dubious distinction of being called North America's most polluted river. It starts in Mexicali, Mexico, flows past homes in the California border town of Calexico and winds up in the Salton Sea. It is made up of 70% waste material and contains raw sewage, disease-causing bacteria, heavy metals and toxic chemicals. It is so dangerous that Border Patrol agents are not required to go in the river to stop illegal immigrants who use it as a "safe" crossing point.
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Actually, I don't chalk it up to luck where IL is concerned.

It's organizations like the ISA, Prairie Rivers and others that work extremely hard to make sure our rivers and streams don't get that far gone.

A little stewardship goes a long way.

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Hi ISA Guys,


Heres an a few paragraphs from an article called "The Dead Chicken Tour" that I have in a magazine that came out in 1992. Let's hope things have improved!


They call it "el Tour de Pollo Muerto"-the Dead Chicken Tour. As congressional staffers passed a polluted ditch during a visit to industries on the Mexican border, a chicken walked by, keeled over, shook violently and expired before their eyes.


The macabre encounter in May instantly became lore amoung some enviromentalists and community activists in Brownsville, because it played to their fear the pollution along the Rio Grande was deadly in a far more serious way.


What has them scared are dead babies, not dead chickens. In Brownsville and surrounding Cameron County, the southernmost tip of Texas, the rates of certain birth defects of the brain or spine have been well above normal for years, recently reaching three times the national average.


Just across the Rio Grande in the Mexico city of Matamora, the rates are roughly four times the U.S. average.


No one has proved why. State investigators looked for a year, but came back shrugging their shoulders, saying information on pollution was too sketchy to suuport firm conclusions.


But critics chrage that toxic chemicals or pollution from the factories that line the river are to blame. New state and federal studies, focusing on enviromental factors are just beginning.


Some of the research targets the manufacturing plants on the Mexican border. Some takes the measure of the legendary Rio Grande itself. source of much of the drinking water in the Brownsville-Matamoros area.


It has become a conduit of disease, more of a sewer, than a stream, according to a report issued in April by American Rivers, a national river conservation group.


The report concluded that the Rio Grande river "poses a greater threat to human health than any river sysytem in North America.



Mark O'Donnell

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