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Oil refineries are a well-documented source of air pollution, but less attention is paid to the ways they also pollute the water. Transforming crude oil into petroleum produces millions of gallons of wastewater each day filled with toxic chemicals and heavy metals that pours out of the plants and flows into rivers and streams affecting nearby communities.

While the Environmental Protection Agency, or the EPA, is legally required to regulate these pollutants and impose penalties, a new study released Thursday by the Environmental Integrity Project maintains that hasn’t been happening. 

The project’s analysis looks at monitoring data, permit applications, and toxic release reports from the nation’s 81 oil refineries that discharge their waste into waterways directly or through off-site treatment plants. In 2021 alone, the plants released a total of 60,000 pounds of selenium, known to cause mutations in fish, and 15.7 million pounds of nitrogen, which feed harmful algal blooms. Some 10,000 pounds of nickel, also toxic to fish in trace amounts, streamed into wate... Read more

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