The Environmental Protection Agency, complying reluctantly with a five-year-old court order, yesterday listed 34 urban streams that may require extraordinary pollution controls because they are "seriously contaminated" beyond any controls now planned.
The agency also listed 12 chemicals that are so dangerous and so pervasive in America's waterways that nationwide control standards may have to be established for them, similar to controls now in effect for some air pollutants.
They include heavy metals like cadmium, mercury, lead, silver and copper along with arsenic, chrominum and cyanide; the heat transference PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and two groups of chemicals used in making plastics: phenols and cresols that also go into pigments and pesticides, and phthalate esters that make plastics flexible.
EPA studied the problem of possible excess pollution for five years under the requirements of a 1976 court-ordered settlement of four lawsuits filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council.The lists, EPA cautioned, are only "highly preliminary" estimates of what seems likely to be the situation after industries install controls now required by a 1984 deadline.
The list does not include coastal areas like New York City and could easily become longer, NRDC attorney James Banks said. He added that EPA is required to produce strategies for dealing with the "toxic hot spots" and the pervasive pollutants in the next six months.
Imposition of any kind of nationwide emissions controls for the 12 chemical groups would be controversial because of their widespread use, so EPA is expected to recommend some other strategy. No new rules likely would be issued for several years after the strategy deadline.
The "potential problem areas" include stretches of rivers, creeks or streams below these cities: Birmingham; Denver; Hartford, Conn.; Coeur d'Alene, Idaho; Gary, Ind.; Des Moines; Wichita, Kan.; Louisville; Baton Rouge, La.; Springfield and Pittfield, Mass.; Midland/Saginaw, Mich., and Minneapolis/St. Paul.
Also, St. Louis; Lincoln, Neb.; Passaic, N.J.; Syracuse, Albany and Rochester, N.Y.; Charlotte, N.C.; Dayton, Canton, Youngstown and Lima, Ohio; Portland, Ore.; Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Scranton and Allentown, Pa.; Memphis, Nashville and Kingsport, Tenn.; Beaumont, Tex., and Charleston, W. Va.