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PSR, Allies tell the EPA: Implement water protections, don't weaken them!

Posted by Kathy Attar, MPH on September 27, 2017

Damage to our water systems from recent Hurricanes Harvey and Maria highlights the need for stronger protections, not weaker, for clean water. Unfortunately, the EPA doesn't appear to agree.

The EPA has proposed to withdraw the 2015 Clean Water Rule and replace it with a less health-protective regulation. PSR, along with other public health and environmental groups, have told the EPA weakening this rule will place our environment and health at risk. The Clean Water Rule protects the nation's rain-dependent streams and wetlands from toxic pollution under the Clean Water Act.

For years, uncertainty about which bodies of water were protected by law created loopholes that put clean water supplies at risk. The Clean Water Rule, created in 2015, seeks to extend clear protections to headwaters, intermittent streams, and wetlands.

Recent water quality assessments show the U.S. still has a long way to go in meeting the Clean Water Act's goal of swimmable and fishable waters. Consider these statistics: over 50% of assessed rivers and streams fail to meet one or more state water quality standards, and fewer than 48% of wetlands are in good biological condition.[1] Toxics are still discharged into our waters, while agricultural discharges are almost entirely unregulated.

As the climate changes and we see more extreme weather events like Hurricanes Harvey and Maria, wetlands can serve as an invaluable protection against flooding. Yet without Clean Water Act protections, there is often nothing stopping their contamination by floods, sediment, sewage and toxic chemicals.

Vulnerable communities such as low-income and communities of color are often the hardest hit by climate challenges, especially flooding, because they are more likely to live in low-lying areas or near bodies of water, and lack the resources to prepare for and recover from storms which create public health risks.

PSR has submitted comments strongly urging the EPA and the Army Corps to withdraw their current proposal and instead work to implement the 2015 Clean Water Rule without delay.

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