The Obama administration has continued this legacy, taking important steps to secure the health of our rivers, lakes, and streams. This past March the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed clarifying its authority under the law for which streams and wetlands receive protection following confusion that has arisen following two Supreme Court decisions.
Clarity is needed. About 60 percent of all U.S. stream miles either flow seasonally or after rain, and approximately one in three Americans rely on these streams in part for their drinking water. And there is no guidance on which of these water bodies should receive protection under the clean water act. A clean water system – including both upstream and downstream bodies of water – is essential to our nation’s public health, wildlife, and economy.
Sadly even this attempt to clarify federal authority to ensure we have clean, safe drinking water has drawn Republican opposition in Congress.
Their refusal to address the pollutants flowing into our rivers, lakes, and streams is compromising our health and the wildlife living there. Just last week, the USGS released a study showing the presence of intersex fish in Pennsylvania’s Delaware, Ohio and Susquehanna Rivers. These startling mutations are caused by exposure to endocrine-disrupting pollutants, which are common in areas with high agricultural land use and points to the adverse effects of pesticides and herbicides.
Republicans may say that protecting our waters is bad for business. Well corporations, like people, need clean water to function.
Republicans also want to leave the issue of water protection to the states, but water doesn’t adhere to borders. Our state partners rely on the Clean Water Act to operate their programs and our water bodies don’t necessarily follow state boundaries but are so interconnected that lax regulation in one state becomes another’s problem.
Ending this confusion will be an important step toward the protecting our drinking water and preserving a resource we cannot live without. We need to settle this confusion once and for all. It unfortunately that some would prefer to maintain the present confusion.