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Rivers at Risk: S.D. waterways serve as dumping grounds for human, industrial wastes

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    2. The James River, shown here just east of Mitchell, receives on average about 2 million gallons of treated wastewater per day from the city's wastewater treatment system.

The state of South Dakota, its cities and industries have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to treat wastewater over the past decade, and yet highly toxic chemicals including mercury, cyanide, cadmium, hydrogen sulfide and ammonia have made it into state rivers.

Despite the heavy investment and multi-million-dollar annual cost of pollution removal, federal data from fiscal 2017 shows that 127 South Dakota treatment systems were in non-compliance with federal pollution standards and that 62 serious violations and 85 enforcement actions were issued statewide.

Meanwhile, as South Dakota’s population grows, and industry and agriculture expand, pollution control records show that the state has done a progressively worse job in recent years of protecting its rivers from pollution, according to a South Dakota News Watch analysis.

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