“Dismantling the Clean Water Rule requires mischaracterizing or ignoring what the science of water tells us. This is not in keeping with EPA’s mission and mandate and it’s keeping us from addressing real water challenges both old and new.”

Lynn Thorp, National Campaigns Director, Clean Water Action/Clean Water Fund

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is threatened by proposed budget cuts, staff attrition, and extreme leadership.

As if that weren’t enough, precious agency resources are going toward dismantling well-justified and bedrock water protections and exploring new pollution loopholes.

Given how much work remains to be done to live up to the promise of the Clean Water Act, first enacted into law in 1972, this is a disturbing step backward.

Clean Water Action and allies nationwide are defending a notable piece of water protection progress known as the “Clean Water Rule.” Finalized in 2015, it clarified a question that shouldn’t even be a question – how and what water is connected and what water should we protect? After more than a decade of answering “All of It,” we applauded EPAs progress in clarifying that what happens upstream in small streams and wetlands does impact the larger water bodies downstream, including drinking water sources serving over 100 million people.

“Many challenges remain in living up to the “fishable, swimmable, and drinkable” goals of the Clean Water Act. Now is the time to muster science, technology, community engagement, and a vision of healthier communities to meet those goals.”

In the wake of President Trump’s February 2017 executive order, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt commenced unraveling this common sense approach to protecting the streams and wetlands that are vital parts of our nation’s water infrastructure.

As demonstrated compellingly in a January 2015 review of the scientific literature Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters, streams and wetlands play a critical  role in filtering pollutants and preventing flooding. This report, a great example of the kind of work our EPA should be doing, spelled out the intricate and fascinating way that upstream water bodies influence downstream rivers and lakes.

Dismantling the Clean Water Rule requires mischaracterizing or ignoring what the science of water tells us. This is not in keeping with EPA’s mission and mandate and it’s keeping us from addressing real water challenges both old and new.

As if that is not enough, now we’re fighting another water pollution loophole threat. EPA has long required polluters to obtain a permit when chemicals or other pollutants they dump in groundwater flow into a river or other surface water. Now EPA is asking if the agency should reconsider its longstanding position that pollution that flows into surface water through groundwater require a water pollution permit.

Who benefits? The fossil fuel companies, petroleum pipeline companies and coal-burning utilities that have been facing liability in courts for polluting water with gasoline, diesel, and heavy metal —and losing case after case.

Why? Because it doesn’t make sense for the Clean Water Act to cover pollution discharged from a pipe into a river, but not pollution that flows through groundwater into that same river.

Everyone wants – and everyone deserves – clean water. Polls repeatedly show that people care about safe drinking water and about their local rivers, lakes, bays and streams. Many challenges remain in living up to the “fishable, swimmable, and drinkable” goals of the Clean Water Act. Now is the time to muster science, technology, community engagement, and a vision of healthier communities to meet those goals – not to dismantle well-considered protections and carve out new loopholes.

Lynn Thorp is the National Campaigns Director for the Clean Water Action/Clean Water Fund.