Obama Administration Announces Landmark Clean Water Law

Environment Illinois Research and Education Center

Chicago, IL–Environment Illinois hailed the Obama administration for releasing proposed guidance today which, if adopted, would restore Clean Water Act protections to vital streams across Illinois and protect Illinoisans’ drinking water. In response to the announcement, Environment Illinois is launching a major initiative to build support for clean water protections.

“Right now, Lake Michigan, the Mississippi and Illinois’s other waters are at risk as the very streams that feed them and wetlands that clean may no longer be protected by the Clean Water Act. We need to stop giving polluters a free pass and start protecting our waterways and drinking water,” said Max Muller, program director at Environment Illinois.

The original Clean Water Act–one of America’s core environmental laws–was intended to protect all American surface waters from harmful pollution. But over the past decade, developers and others have used litigation to create loopholes in the Act, leaving thousands of streams and millions of acres of wetlands likely beyond its scope.

In Illinois that means that 56% of streams and 150,000 acres of wetlands, all formerly protected, may no longer be protected by the Clean Water Act, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA estimates that over 1.6 million Illinoisans get there drinking waters from supplies fed by these waters.

“Restoring Clean Water Act protections to all our waters is crucial to our health, economy, and environment. The clean water guidance released today will take a much needed step towards restoring Clean Water Act protections to these vital waterways,” said Muller.

In response to today’s announcement, Environment Illinois is launching a summer-long grassroots campaign to educate the public in the Chicagoland about clean water and build support for the proposed guidance. 

“Illinoisans want clean water. When I talk to people in Illinois about this issue, they are simply appalled to learn that the Clean Water Act might no longer protect their favorite local stream,” said Muller.

“In the face of powerful polluters who want to continue fouling our waterways without limit, President Obama is showing true courage in moving forward to protect Illinoisans’s waters,” said Muller. “Environment Illinois is ready to mobilize Illinoisans to show that the public is on the side of Lake Michigan, Illinois’s rivers lakes, and streams, and clean drinking water.”