Clean Water Rule: A Win for Public Health
May 26, 2015
Contact: Kathy Attar, Toxics Program Manager, Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR)
For immediate release:
Washington DC- Clean water is a public health issue for all communities. The release today of the Clean Water Rule (also known as the Waters of the U.S. rule) marks a strong step forward in protecting the streams and wetlands that are the headwaters of drinking water supplies for one in three U.S. residents. 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 clears up that confusion by safeguarding the sources of our water supplies, and aids in ensuring that every community is again entitled to clean water," said Catherine Thomasson, MD, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility. The proposed rule uses the law and science to clarify that waters like tributaries and adjacent waters must be protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA) because they significantly affect the quality of downstream waters.
Healthy wetlands and streams provide many public health benefits to communities, including improving drinking water quality and preventing flooding. Wetlands serve as natural buffers, filtering out pollutants before they impact water sources and absorbing floodwaters before they hit land. "As the climate changes and we begin to see more extreme weather events, wetlands can serve as an invaluable protection against flooding. Yet without CWA protections, there is often nothing stopping floods, sediment, sewage or toxic chemicals from threatening our health," said Janelle Lundgren MD, Physicians for Social Responsibility Ohio member.
Clean drinking water is essential for everyone. Thousands of U.S. residents become ill each year from drinking water contaminated with human and animal waste, pesticides, and heavy metals such as arsenic and lead. "Science demonstrates that upstream headwaters, wetlands, lakes, or other waters act together to influence downstream waters by contributing clean water for drinking, irrigation, and recreation; filtering pollution; and reducing downstream flooding. That's why as a health professional I support the Clean Water Rule and its protection of our vital waters," says Alan Peterson, MD, Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania member.
For more information on the link between the Clean Water Rule and public health, see Physicians for Social Responsibility's comments to the EPA on the rule.