EPA Shares Water Priorities, Action Timelines on Twitter

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency that 55 percent of U.S. streams and rivers are in “poor” condition, according to its most recent national rivers and streams assessment.

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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.

Q1 @earthjustice Bad news this week abt US waters. Agriculture is a major polluter. @epawater How will you fix this?#waterchat

— U.S. EPA Water (@EPAwater) March 28, 2013

A1 @earthjustice We’re working to address all sources of pollution inwaterways. Working closely w/states, USDA & ag community. #waterchat

— U.S. EPA Water (@EPAwater) March 28, 2013

We replied:

.@epawater Thank you for reply. What policies can we expect to see to protect our waters frm toxic algae & ag runoff? #waterchat #greenslime

— Earthjustice (@Earthjustice) March 28, 2013

Unfortunately, that question did not get answered. Some other people followed up with similar questions, though, and their answers were:

A27 @michaeledkelly Using all tools we have working with partners – states, USDA, ag community and more!#waterchat

— U.S. EPA Water (@EPAwater) March 28, 2013

A15 @sierraclub We have great focus on reducing nutrient pollution, theleading problem found in report.go.usa.gov/2sJM #waterchat

— U.S. EPA Water (@EPAwater) March 28, 2013

When asked what its top priorities are over the next four years, the EPA responded:

A20 @daynareggero We do! Priorities: nutrient pollution, green infrastructure, innovation, helping communities, urban waterways #waterchat

— U.S. EPA Water (@EPAwater) March 28, 2013

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:

Q32 @earthjustice In Bush admin, 60% US streams & 20mill acres of wetlandslost #cleanwateract coverage. EPA proposed a fix. When final?

— U.S. EPA Water (@EPAwater) March 28, 2013

A32 @earthjustice no decision on timing yet#waterchat

— U.S. EPA Water (@EPAwater) March 28, 2013

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:

Q30 @beyondcoal @epawater How are you going to keep mountaintop removal #coal mines from polluting our waterways? #waterchat

— U.S. EPA Water (@EPAwater) March 28, 2013

A30 @beyondcoal Work closely with Army Corps, states & mining companies to develop projects that protect streams and communities. #waterchat

— U.S. EPA Water (@EPAwater) March 28, 2013

Some of us have been wondering how the sequester will be felt by our waterways:

A26 @iowawatercenter // @stormmerc Every program here at EPA is being cut.#waterchat

— U.S. EPA Water (@EPAwater) March 28, 2013

And some news about EPA policies and timelines for action:

A3 EPA intends to propose a rule to strengthen the national stormwater program by June 10, 2013. #waterchat

— U.S. EPA Water (@EPAwater) March 28, 2013

A3 Stormwater can definitely have adverse impact our streams and wetlands & addressing stormwater issues is a priority for us. #waterchat

— U.S. EPA Water (@EPAwater) March 28, 2013

During our chat today, we said we didn’t have info on CAFO rule timing. We are planning to propose this rule by April 30, 2013. #waterchat

— U.S. EPA Water (@EPAwater) March 28, 2013

(Read the entire Twitter chat.)

Liz Judge worked at Earthjustice from 2010–2016. During that time, she worked on mountaintop removal mining, national forests, and clean water issues, and led the media and advocacy communications teams.

Earthjustice’s Washington, D.C., office works at the federal level to prevent air and water pollution, combat climate change, and protect natural areas. We also work with communities in the Mid-Atlantic region and elsewhere to address severe local environmental health problems, including exposures to dangerous air contaminants in toxic hot spots, sewage backups and overflows, chemical disasters, and contamination of drinking water. The D.C. office has been in operation since 1978.