The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is moving forward with proposals to clarify what water resources qualify for federal protections. Once finalized, this action will close critical protection gaps that have left drinking water sources for 117 million Americans vulnerable to contamination and destruction, according to Clean Water Action’s Lynn Thorp.
EPA’s September 17 announcement comes roughly twelve years after pro-polluter court decisions and actions by the Bush Administration weakened critical Clean Water Act protections. Sustained campaigning by Clean Water Action and allies helped to set the stage for this positive development. Clean Water Action expects continued strong opposition from polluters, who would prefer to see the law remain in its current, weakened state.
People overwhelmingly favor EPA’s action. In 2011 during the one brief official public comment period, EPA received more than 290,000 comments, more than 90% of which supported strong EPA action to restore protections.
Also on September 17, EPA released comprehensive, peer-reviewed research documenting how important it is for all water resources – even small upstream tributaries and wetlands – to be protected. “You can’t protect just some of the water,” explains Thorp. “It’s all connected. Common sense tells us that.”
The “we all live downstream” saying has been popular for years. EPA’s research findings show the definitive science behind this commonly-held belief.
In recent years, with longstanding Clean Water Act protections no longer certain, EPA’s annual water quality surveys began to show troubling declines, and polluters appeared to be gaining the upper hand. Welcoming EPA’s announcement, Clean Water Action’s Jennifer Peters said, “Protecting these streams and wetlands is a no-brainer. These wetlands filter pollutants from our drinking water and mitigate flooding – it’s amazing that we’ve allowed them to be vulnerable for so long.”