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Preliminary tests of the bubble barrier have shown it to be capable of ushering 80 percent of the canal's plastic waste to its banks. The Great Bubble Barrier / YouTube screenshot

The scourge of plastic waste that washes up on once-pristine beaches and finds its way into the middle of the ocean often starts on land, is dumped in rivers and canals, and gets carried out to sea. At the current rate, marine plastic is predicted to outweigh all the fish in the seas by 2050, according to Silicon Canals.

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Monday proposed to roll back safeguards that keep one of the nation's biggest industrial polluters — coal-burning power plants — from discharging harmful substances into the nation's waterways. In addition, the agency moved to extend deadlines for companies to stop using unlined toxic coal ash ponds, which are prone to spills and leaks that could contaminate groundwater.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Duke Energy reported that it spilled an estimated 50,000 to 82,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River near Eden, North Carolina in Feb. 2014. Waterkeeper Alliance / Rick Dove

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will release several new rules in the coming weeks, many of which will relax regulations meant to protect the environment from industrial pollution. In a gift to the coal industry, the EPA will reverse course on regulations meant to reduce the amount of toxic heavy metals that leach into the water systems from the ash emitted by coal-fired power plants, according to The New York Times.

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In this photo taken Oct. 26 vegetation is covered in oil after diesel spilled into the Karnaphuli River following a collision of two tankers at Padma jetty in Chittagong. The oil spread about 16 kilometers during high tides and low tides in the river, posing serious threat to the local biodiversity, especially the Ganges river dolphins breeding ground. STR / AFP / Getty Images

An oil spill in the endangered Ganges river dolphin breeding grounds located in southeast Bangladesh has been called a "major disaster" by environmentalists, reports Agence-France Presse (AFP).

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Dutch Founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup Boyan Slat, presents in Rotterdam the new barge system called "The Interceptor" which will be used for the expansion of their river and ocean cleaning campaign on Oct. 26. ROBIN UTRECHT / ANP / AFP / Getty Images

The Dutch inventor behind the Ocean Cleanup is now looking to stop plastic pollution at the source.

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Bottlenose dolphin surfaces in the Potomac River Sept. 25. Parker Michels-Boyce / The Washington Post / Getty Images

Dolphins have returned to the Potomac River and are even giving birth there, The Smithsonian reported.

The body of water that George Washington once called "the nation's river" used to host dolphins in the 1800s, but it had gotten so heavily polluted by the 1960s that wildlife struggled to survive and President Lyndon Johnson called it a "national disgrace." Fifty years of cleanup efforts have paid off, however, and now more than 1,000 bottlenose dolphins have been counted in its waters.

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Maryland wetlands near Nanticoke Wildlife Management Area. Farmers, developers or landowners will no longer need a permit to pollute the streams and wetlands. NRDC / Matt Rath / Chesapeake Bay Program / Flickr

The Trump administration repealed the 2015 Clean Water Rule rule Thursday, a rule intended to protect 60 percent of the nation's waterways from pollution, The New York Times reported.

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A sadhu—a common term for a mystic, an ascetic, practitioner of yoga—rowing a boat on the holy Ganges River.

hadynyah / E+ / Getty Images

By Johnny Wood

The Ganges is a lifeline for the people of India, spiritually and economically. On its journey from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, it supports fishermen, farmers and an abundance of wildlife.

The river and its tributaries touch the lives of roughly 500 million people. But having flowed for millennia, today it is reaching its capacity for human and industrial waste, while simultaneously being drained for agriculture and municipal use.

Here are some of the challenges the river faces.

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Fionn Ferreira / YouTube screenshot

The climate crisis looms large for young people. We see teenagers like Greta Thunberg inspiring kids around the world to take part in political activism. Then, there are solution-seekers like Fionn Ferreira, an 18 year-old Irish wunderkind, who won the grand prize at the 2019 Google Science Fair for creating a method to remove microplastics from the ocean.

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Salmon fry before being released just outside San Francisco Bay. Jim Wilson / The New York Times / Redux

By Alisa Opar

For Chinook salmon, the urge to return home and spawn isn't just strong — it's imperative. And for the first time in more than 65 years, at least 23 fish that migrated as juveniles from California's San Joaquin River and into the Pacific Ocean have heeded that call and returned as adults during the annual spring run.

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Coal ash has contaminated the Vermilion River in Illinois. Eco-Justice Collaborative / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Jessica A. Knoblauch

Summers in the Midwest are great for outdoor activities like growing your garden or cooling off in one of the area's many lakes and streams. But some waters aren't as clean as they should be.

That's in part because coal companies have long buried toxic waste known as coal ash near many of the Midwest's iconic waterways, including Lake Michigan. Though coal ash dumps can leak harmful chemicals like arsenic and cadmium into nearby waters, regulators have done little to address these toxic sites. As a result, the Midwest is now littered with coal ash dumps, with Illinois containing the most leaking sites in the country.

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