Press "Enter" to skip to content

Big Sewer: Big Sioux River 13th Most Polluted Waterway in U.S. in 2010

Hat tip to Nathan Johnson!

Well, that's depressing: a new report from Environment America ranks the Big Sioux River as having the 13th largest amount of toxic industrial pollution discharges in 2010. The sole discharger into the Big Sioux measured in this report is Smithfield Foods, John Morrell's processing plant in Sioux Falls, which dumped 2.95 million pounds of yuck into the public waters past the Falls.

John Morrell Bologna and Egg Breakfast Burrito
(Speaking of toxic discharge, the featured recipe on the John Morrell website this morning is bologna and egg breakfast burritos.)

In all of the surrounding states, only Nebraska has one facility causing more harm to waterways... and that's the Tyson Fresh Meats processing plant pouring 4.62 million pounds of pollution into the Missouri River. I'm assuming this source is the Dakota City beef facility, for whose toxic discharges Tyson paid the feds a two-million-dollar penalty in 2009.

Surprising to me is the fact that even with all that Bakken-frackin' oil activity, North Dakota saw much less toxic discharge into its waterways than did South Dakota, under a million pounds. Maybe South Dakota state government is putting us more at risk of polluted waterways with its pressure on local governments to approve giant hog farms than with its push to drill for oil.


  1. Mark 2012.04.06

    That is depressing. I wonder how one rationalizes dumping all that into a river. We need tougher environmental regulations to save us from ourselves. I know it costs money. Eventually, we're all (and succeeding generations) going to pay in human, ecological, and economic terms. It's outrageous that this is a partisan issue.

  2. jana 2012.04.06

    One has to wonder whether or not there is anyone at the local or state level who would cry foul to this in light of the political repercussions that would surely follow.

    Probably not. Sad.

  3. Marty Brown 2012.05.08

    Remember all, you are reading a blogger -- not a journalist. Big Sioux, yes, it needs improvement. But the City of Sioux Falls has spent a ton of money buying up river front for the purpose of filtering. The rankings on Smithfield are high, yes, and they just got nailed hard for those discharges. They are on the radar, believe me. This guy is an idiot and did not do his homework no news, just a repurposed paragraph -- just jumped on a news feed he found. Go somewhere else and let's all put pressure in the right places. I am right with you!!! Rivers matter -- and the city of SF is fighting for them at every turn.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.05.08

    I guess I missed the part that explains how my being an idiot negates the need to bring this problem to people's attention. I assume Marty also considers many of the journalists in Sioux Falls idiots, since they quite frequently reprint and repurpose the AP news feeds.

    I would also suggest that the city of Sioux Falls evidently needs to fight harder... or poop less: According to according to yesterday's AP report, the two major point sources of pollution are the John Morrell plant and the City of Sioux Falls wastewater plant. How's that fight going again?

  5. Jana 2012.05.08

    "But the City of Sioux Falls has spent a ton of money buying up river front for the purpose of filtering."

    So what Marty is saying is that the taxpayers of Sioux Falls are paying big bucks for one of their offending corporate citizens. Seems fair. We shouldn't expect a big company like Smithfield foods to clean up after themselves, should we? I mean, they are a job creator for goodness sake.

    Marty, I agree with you that Rivers matter — just not seeing the city or the state fighting them at every turn like you say. I would love to see a report on how the city of Sioux Falls and the state are fighting them.

    Usually the only fight between Morrell and the city fathers is over the check for dinner...and yes, the taxpayers usually pick up that tab.

  6. Carter 2012.05.08

    Corporations never pay for dumping things in the water. I'd be willing to bet that Tyson's $2 million fine was pennies compared to how much it would have cost them to properly dispose of the waste.

  7. LK 2012.05.09

    Hey Marty,

    I was going to let your wine spritzer induced blather go by, but I came across these paragraphs by a conservative blogger and journalist, who defends the medium of blogging, so I thought I'd share. I don’t think the problems he admits to apply to this thread's original post; however, they may apply to your comment. You will notice that his writing contains ad hominem attacks, just sayin'

    ". . . One of the reasons blogging is so much livelier and more interesting than most printed opinioneering is because the unwritten conventions of the medium make it possible to say things you wouldn’t necessarily say in print. Nobody who has done this kind of thing for any length of time will have gone without saying something regrettable in haste. It has certainly happened to me. But most blog readers get that, and are willing to give bloggers a lot of grace if their overall output is interesting, and of reasonably high quality. I’ve walked away from Andrew Sullivan’s blog several times over the past decade because I thought he was being outrageously unfair to this person or that point of view. But I always go back because it’s worth reading — and because at times, he backtracks and admits he was wrong. When readers point out to me that I’ve failed seriously at something, I typically go back and correct myself. I think it’s good policy.

    Anyway, blogs are a lot more alive, as a general matter, than print — for better and for worse. The risk of bloggers going off half-cocked is there … but so is the reward of fresher, livelier, more engaging copy. I find it easier to forgive my favorite bloggers their sins of judgment and taste than I would to forgive them the sin of being dull and conformist."

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.05.09

    As always, LK, I appreciate your support. Jana, Carter, your comments, too, are right on the money (literally).

Comments are closed.