Ohio River pollution

Flowing through heavily populated and industrialized areas, it collects an unsettling array of contaminants

CINCINNATI — The mighty Ohio River rises in downtown Pittsburgh and flows 981 miles to its confluence with the Mississippi River at Cairo, Ill.

Flowing through heavily populated and industrialized areas, it collects an unsettling array of contaminants. Louisville, Ky., for one example, contributes DEET insect repellant, caffeine and antibacterial soap — as well as spiked levels of cocaine — to the waterway.

That is according to a preliminary scientific report detailing types of Ohio River pollutants that may be harmful to black bass and other aquatic life. The report was prepared by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO).

The researchers collected river water samples at 22 locations, from Pittsburgh downstream to Paducah, Ky. They were looking for traces of 158 contaminants, including 118 hormones, pharmaceuticals and personal care products. 

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