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Clean Water Act: Still Under Attack After 40 Years

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As Jon Devine details in his NRDC blog, the EPA could do far more to protect our national waterways, it just hasn’t exercised those rights. Why? Because doing so would mean disrupting some of the dirtiest and most politically entrenched industries in our nation: Big Coal, Big Agriculture, commercial fishing, and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

It’s also important to realize that while the Clean Water Act was a landmark achievement in 1972, a lot has changed since then. Polluters have become better at covering their tracks. New types of contamination have been discovered. As it stands, the Clean Water Act is toothless against these new threats.

“The Clean Water Act was a great piece of legislation when it was passed in 1972,” writes Todd L. Ambs, President of the River Network, “but this law in its current form will not enable us to achieve the physical and biological integrity goals that produce truly healthy waterways. It is time to consider amending the Federal Water Pollution Control Act again to bring it into the 21st century.”

Let your mind wander to 2052. The Clean Water Act, if it still exists, will be 80 years old. Will that be an America where it’s still safe to splash in the ocean, fish in local rivers, or take your canoe out into local lakes? Or will that be a country where coal-fired power plants are free to dump their toxic ash and wastewater without fear of consequence? Will our oceans be vibrant and teeming with life? Or suffocated to death by the runoff of pesticides, fertilizers, and animal waste?

Just like 40 years ago, WE THE PEOPLE have the chance to decide what happens to our water. We have the power to demand new legislation that addresses new threats and an EPA that will enforce it. How? By caring. By getting involved with local groups taking action on local issues. By getting educated about companies who pollute our water. And most importantly, by voting for Congressional representatives who realize, like they did 40 years ago, that clean water is never a partisan issue.

If you’re not sure we can do it, or that we should even try, you’re not alone. The same uncertainty existed 40 years ago. And here’s what Senator Ed Muskie of Maine, one of the Clean Water Act’s chief authors, asked the country at that time.

“Can we afford clean water? Can we afford rivers and lakes and streams and oceans which continue to make possible life on this planet? Can we afford life itself?”

Those questions were never asked as we destroyed the waters of our Nation, and they deserve no answers as we finally move to restore and renew them. These questions answer themselves. And those who say that raising the amounts of money called for in this legislation may require higher taxes, or that spending this much money may contribute to inflation simply do not understand the language of this crisis.”

Related Reading:

Another Republican Attempt To Gut The Clean Water Act

Can We Afford To Defund Clean Water?

Environmental Groups Demand That The EPA Protect The Great Lakes

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3:11AM PDT on Jun 19, 2015


3:02AM PDT on Jun 19, 2015

Your way to enlighten everything on this blog is actually pleasant, everyone manage to efficiently be familiar with it, Thanks a great deal. water restoration company

8:21AM PST on Nov 16, 2012

Great article! This nation needs to get more serious about preserving our clean water, which ultimately means leading a healthier lifestyle! To find out what Biological Tech Solutions is doing to promote cleaner water, check out our website at

6:10PM PDT on Oct 26, 2012

Gene J, my friend, you've said it all!

10:43AM PDT on Oct 26, 2012

Susan S, you’ve hit on a great idea for helping our economy: stop paying EPA officials who aren’t doing their jobs, and stop paying members of Congress who pass laws that aren’t enforced. (Or stop paying members of Congress who fail to show up to vote in the first place.)
To paraphrase a Cree (Native American) prophecy: When all the waters are polluted, only then will we discover we can’t drink water.
Politicians taking money from companies eager to pollute our water seem to be trying to wipe out the lower and middle classes so they and their rich cronies can have the world for themselves. I hope they enjoy drinking polluted water their greed has produced.

12:51AM PDT on Oct 23, 2012

Sad ,noted .

10:16AM PDT on Oct 22, 2012

thanks for sharing :)

12:56PM PDT on Oct 21, 2012

Not to worry...the wealthiest will be invited to live on or at least visit the 100,000 acres of land that the Bush Family purchased in Paraguay. You's the land that sits on top of a huge aquifer and enormous natural gas field (not to mention its along the multi-billion drug 'highway'). Everything will be just fine, you can move along now.

(Luis D Elia, undersecretary for the Social Habitat in the Argentine Federal Planning Ministry, issued a memo partially reproduced by digital, in which he spoke of the purchase by Bush of a 98,842-acre farm in northern Paraguay, between Brazil and Bolivia.)

9:20AM PDT on Oct 21, 2012

Glad to have signed numerous petitions on keeping the Clean Water Act strong. Clean water is the real Gold, isn't it?

2:43AM PDT on Oct 21, 2012

I'm afraid the only way these big businesses, the polluters, are going to change is when they are out of business because they killed off their clients (and themselves) and there is no more demand for their products.

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