Highlights from the EPA’s chief of water policy
Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency revealed that 55 percent of U.S. streams and rivers are in “poor” condition, according to its most recent national rivers and streams assessment. Following the release of that grim report, the EPA held a live Twitter chat to answer questions about our clean water protections and the state of our waters in the United States.
This was a rare opportunity for the public to directly ask the EPA’s head of water policy, Nancy Stoner, about the agency’s plans to address our nation’s water quality problems. We got a chance to ask some questions, too.
The first question of the chat was ours. We wanted to know how the EPA plans to fix the situation we find our nation in today: The fact is that 27% of the nation’s rivers and streams have excessive levels of nitrogen and 40% have high levels of phosphorus. These nutrient pollutants, which come from factory farms and industrial agriculture, cause toxic green slime outbreaks that are harmful to public health.
Unfortunately, that question did not get answered. Some other people followed up with similar questions, though, and their answers were:
When asked what its top priorities are over the next four years, the EPA responded:
Part of the problem of our dirty water is that a huge percentage of our waterways were cut out of protection under the Clean Water Act in the 2000s, after two confusing Supreme Court decisions muddied decades of clean water protections, and two Bush administration guidances cut even more waters out of protection.
The Obama administration proposed restoring those longstanding protections two years ago. Finalizing this guidance will significantly help clean up our nation’s dirty waters, and it will return common-sense safeguards to the drinking water supply of 117 million Americans. But today, while 59 percent of our streams and millions of acres of wetlands are vulnerable to unbridled pollution, that guidance is stalled in a White House office.
We asked the EPA about this:
Another widespread threat to clean water is mining. In Appalachia, an extreme form of coal mining called mountaintop removal mining is polluting and obliterating thousands of miles of streams at a remarkable pace. It’s harming communities’ drinking water supplies and destroying wildlife, as well.
In the first term of the Obama administration, the EPA took some important steps to begin addressing this threat. We and our partners at the Sierra Club asked what they are planning for the next four years:
Some of us have been wondering how the sequester will be felt by our waterways:
And some news about EPA policies and timelines for action:
(Read the entire Twitter chat.)