On July 2, U.S. PIRG released a report documenting how the Bush administration's efforts to weaken environmental protections is threatening the places Americans go to vacation. Joan Mulhern spoke about Clean Water Act rollbacks at the press conference announcing the report.
Polluting America's environment is unpatriotic and no way to celebrate the 4th of July. What we really need from the Bush Administration is a Declaration of Independence from the unhealthy political influence of the industrial polluters that are fouling our nation's waterways.
For millions of American families, their favorite summer get-away is to a body of water: a lake, beach, river, stream or pond. Yet, despite the Clean Water Act's promise of clean for all communities, at least forty-four percent of water bodies studied are still too polluted. EPA's recent National Coastal Condition report found that the health of our nation's coastal beach waters is only fair to poor.
But the Bush administration does not seem to care: it is adopting regulations that will leave polluted waters too dirty for swimming or fishing and will even make our waters more polluted.
Industries do not want to have to clean up their water pollution, so the Bush administration is about to let them off the hook. Later this month, the administration is expected to announce its rewrite of the Clean Water Act's 30-year old program designed to clean up polluted waters, called "Total Maximum Daily Loads". The existing provision sets sensible limits on the amount of pollution a water body can absorb and still be safe for fishing or swimming. The Bush administration's new rules will delay, if not forever derail, these clean up plans.
To make matters much worse, the Bush administration wants to allow industries to put even more waste into our waters. In May, the administration eliminated a 25-year old provision of law that banned dumping waste materials into waterways. It did so in order to allow mining companies and other industries to throw their waste in streams, lakes, ponds and wetlands – even when these waters will be completely obliterated under huge piles of debris.
So this summer, if you find out that your favorite beach, lake or river is too dirty for swimming: get used to it, because the tools to clean it up may soon be taken away. If the Bush administration has its way, soon the "Gone Fishin'" sign on the door will be replaced by a sign near the old fishing hole that just says: "Gone."
Joan Mulhern, Earthjustice, 202-667-4500
Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.