Federal officials need to protect clean water
2014 has already provided some stark reminders of the myriad and grave threats to something we cannot survive without: clean water.
A storage facility that leaked coalprocessing chemicals into the Elk River left 300,000 West Virginians without tap water for days. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency due to a record-breaking drought in California. And a Duke Energy pipeline leaked 82,000 tons of toxic coal ash into the Dan River in North Carolina.
These disasters teach us that when we have the opportunity to protect clean water, we should take it. Thankfully, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has the power – and, right now, the opportunity – to restore our nation’s bedrock water-quality law, the Clean Water Act, to ensure all of our waters are protected from pollution and overdevelopment. And I hope it’ll take it.
For more than 40 years, the Clean Water Act has been helping protect waterways from pollution across the country. Through its protections, we’ve made huge strides in cleaning up Rhode Island’s waterways, giving more Rhode Islanders the opportunity to enjoy boating and fishing on Narragansett Bay all summer. But the lobbyists for polluting industries in D.C. want to erode that progress.
Polluter-led lawsuits have opened loopholes in the Clean Water Act that leave 63 percent of Rhode Island’s streams and many of its wetlands at risk of unchecked pollution. To make matters worse, these are the same streams that feed and filter into Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island’s drinking water sources.
We know from the days before the Clean Water Act that when polluters are allowed to use our rivers, lakes and streams as a dumping ground, and pave over our wetlands, our waterways suffer.
The EPA can act now to protect our waterways. Thankfully, it took a critical step forward this past fall when they initiated the process to finally close these loopholes. U.S. Sen. Reed also deserves thanks for helping stop efforts in Congress to prevent the EPA from moving forward on this.
These past few weeks have shown us that protecting clean water just can’t wait. Rhode Island’s small business owners, fishermen, farmers, scientists, local elected officials and all of our families are counting on the EPA to move forward and fix the Clean Water Act now.