POLLUTION AND PROBLEMS

The Mississippi River

The Missouri River

The Ohio River


The Mississippi River

There is a good deal of evidence to suggest that the Mississippi River is a system in trouble. There has been a decrease in biodiversity which means that there are less specieces of plants and animals than there have been in past times. There have also been fish and shellfish discovered contaminated with dangerous and potentially deadly chemicals. Lower quality drinking water and more severe flood damage are also signs that the system is experiencing problems.
Humans have altered the river in many ways that are now changing it, often for the worse. Drainage, dams, locks, and channels have all been created by humans to try to control the river. Flood control levees have been created that have managed to decrease the number of seasonal floods in the area, but the danger of major floods has been inceased. By creating channels designed to shorten or straighten the path of the river and the creation of new farming lands the amount of natural habitat native organisms has been gretaly decreased.
Industries along the banks of the Mississippi have contributed to it's decline as well. These industries are often dumping excess materials into the river, sometimes as much as 50,000 gallons per day. Some of the pollutants being released into the river include pesticides, oils, and heavy metals such as lead. This contamination is so great that in some area it is not only hazardous to the plants and animals that live in the water, it is also dangerous for the human population to use.
One of the ways that scientists measure the pollution levels in rivers is by counting the numbers of fish that die as a result of pollution. This is known as counting Fish Kills. It is possible to discover what pollutants killed the fish as a way to see what has been released into a river. In the Mississippi River basin, humans have influenced fish kills the most with the introduction of agricultural pollutants.
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The Missouri River

The Missouri River suffers heavily from people trying to control it's path. Almost one third of the entire river has been altered by dams or channels. Many structures have been addded to the banks of the Missouri in order to control it. The river has actually been shortened by 46 miles. As a result of increasing depth, the river that originally had 161 islands in it's flow now has only 18.
The commercial fishing industry on the Missouri river has been hit by hard times. The annual harvests have been decreased by as much as 80 %. There are 34 species of fish in the river that are now considered rare, threatened or endangered.
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The Ohio River

The Ohio River shares many of the pollution problems of the Mississippi and the Missouri, but it has another unique problem that began in the Great Lakes. The problem is that there are too many mussels growing there. Zebra Mussels, Quagga Mussels and most recently the Flat Floater Mussel have been over-running the Ohio River. These Mussels were not originally in these water ways. Now that they are, there are not enough natural predators to control their growth. Their population is increasing very quickly. Already in the Great Lakes they are clogging drainage pipes and disrupting the natural system by pushing out the other organisms that eat the same food as the mussels. This is a difficult problem to treat. It would be hard to remove the mussels without damaging other organisms that you didn't want to.
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