RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — UTRGV School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences Associate Professor, Dr. Jude Benavides told ValleyCentral that there are three ways in which pollution is spread across the Rio Grande Valley: air, land, and water.

The RGV is at the downstream end of the Rio Grande River which allows for a heavier flow of pollution into our waterways. Any pollution found in our waterways impacts our drinking water, wastewater, and irrigation. 

The air quality is “relatively good,” but grass and agricultural fires can create air pollution as winds from Mexico push through the RGV. The air quality on Oct. 26 in the RGV falls anywhere between 22 and 54 with Weslaco being 54 being considered as moderate on The Weather Channel app for iPhone.

According to the Astrophysical Data System under NASA, land and agricultural pollution has led to the extinction or reduction of certain wildlife in the Rio Grande Valley.

As for land pollution, illegal dumping has been an ongoing issue and tends to create health issues and impact landfills in the area, according to Dr. Benavides.

“We are becoming a metroplex, the entire Valley and because of that we have to learn to live with tighter regulations, but the regulations come on the back end,” added Dr. Benavides. “That’s after some of the damage is done. We can avoid some of those regulations by looking at smarter ways of doing business and by taking personal responsibility and accountability.”

Benavides said not only locally, but nationally the time to do something is now. 

Everything is not designed to make its way through the sink or toilet pipes, so it is recommended that medicine and flammable items are properly thrown away and not flushed.

According to Benavides, anything in the streets ends up in storm drains that are not treated.

Thornbush can be found in the RGV and Dr. Benavides said once something catches onto the plant, “it’s like Velcro,” it takes a while to remove the trash. He recommends using paper or reusable bags instead of plastic as plastic slowly decomposes over time.

“That is important to do not just for us but for the area of the land, the water, and the air that is going to be our kids and our kids’ kids to enjoy in the future,” said Dr. Benavides.

Reduce, reuse, recycle are listed based on the magnitude of their impact. Dr. Benavides said it is always recommended to reduce, but recycling is better than doing nothing. 

Ten years ago, several cities around Texas enacted ordinances banning single-use plastic bags, but a subsequent Texas Supreme Court ruling stopped the plastic bag ban and deemed them illegal.