In a 1998 assessment of the nation''s waterways, EPA said yesterday that the new data show that 40 percent of the nation''s assessed waterways remain too polluted for fishing and swimming.
The 40 percent figure is generally consistent with findings of the last decade.
Runoff from agricultural lands and urban areas remains the primary source of the leading pollutants: siltation, bacteria, the nutrients phosphorus and nitrogen, and metals.
EPA Assistant Administrator for Water, J. Charles Fox, said "It''s paramount that we clean up the nation''s remaining water pollution. Millions of Americans spend billions of dollars every year at their favorite waterways. Although most of our waterways are cleaner because of controls up by addressing polluted runoff -- a mix of contaminants that can include chemicals, metals, fertilizers and oily wastes."
Fox said that EPA will release a new program to help states address pollution runoff this summer.
The 1998 figures reflect the states'' assessment of a third of the nation''s waterways. Among the states'' findings, more than 290,000 miles of 840,000 miles of assessed rivers and streams do not meet water quality standards.
States also assessed nearly half of all lakes, reservoirs and ponds, finding nearly half polluted.
Of the Great Lakes, 90 percent of their shoreline miles were assessed; of those, 96 percent of their shoreline miles were exceeding water quality standards to protect human health.
Although threats remain, states found that ground water quality generally remains good and can support many different uses.
Additional information, including a fact sheet and the full report, is available at www.epa.gov/ow.
by Virginia Sutcliffe