Water Pollution – East vs West

Note: This article was originally posted in The Gentle Activist on July 8, 2019. The Gentle Activist Facebook page it refers to is still active! Check it out and give it a like and follow!


Wherever I go, I like to put my feet in the waters – or at least touch them somehow – and say a blessing or sing a song to them. I’ve been traveling in the Eastern part of the country lately and, having been raised in the Seattle area with much exploration in the Western states, can’t help but compare the waters I’ve seen.

It seems to me that the Western states’ major waters are cleaner and clearer. With the Pacific, I understand that’s largely due to the temperature. With the Columbia and other large rivers, I’m not sure how they’re as clean-looking as they are considering the commercial shipping, recreational boating, and dumping that occurs in them.

The Eastern states’ waters are just plain murky to me – comparatively. Yes, for the Atlantic, the warmer water means it’s less clear; but the rivers dumping into it in the Carolinas are just as murky. Sure, there’s spring flooding or storms that create silt; but the Western rivers have that too and yet they still seem clearer. Is it because commercial shipping was bigger on the East Coast and has gone on much longer than on the West Coast? Is it because people in the West are working toward cleaning up our waters and having more success with the government? Is it just because there’s so much more industry in the East? Or are there a multitude of reasons all combined? I think that’s truly the case.

Mind you, I’m not saying that the Western waters are anywhere near clean. We know all but the most remote waters are polluted in some way. But…I don’t have a problem putting my feet in the Columbia, Pacific, Puget Sound, and the many rivers in Washington. I literally cringed putting my feet in the Mississippi River and was warned not to even put a toe in the Wakarusa River (Kansas) while we were there. Skimming the Internet shows the most polluted rivers in the U.S. are in the East and Texas. The Pacific Ocean is high on the lists too because of the plastic vortexes. I will say that there was less trash on the Atlantic beaches I visited than on many of the Pacific beaches. That said, the West has made huge strides over the past ten or so years in cleaning up the beaches.

So, I guess my point is that there are a number of contributing factors to water pollution on both sides of the country (and around the world.) While the U.S.’s West Coast seems cleaner, we still have a lot of work to do there and throughout the entire country. Will you help?

One of the resources I read for the most polluted U.S. rivers was from Greentumble, which was founded by two environmentalists and offers excellent articles. Another great article about water pollution in general, with some tips for how to help, is from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). One of the things I’m doing to help is reducing my plastic usage starting by going through My Plastic Free Life’s “100 Steps to a Plastic-Free Life”. I discuss my efforts on The Gentle Activist’s Facebook page. If nothing else, share this post and the other resources above, pick up trash (where ever you find it or join a group), and keep educating yourself.

Thank you for reading and being a part of positive change in our world!

~Julie