Landmark Clean Water Announcement

Environment Missouri

ST. LOUIS – Today the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a new guidance on Clean Water Act jurisdiction.  Environment Missouri hailed the administration for releasing the guidance. If adopted, it would restore Clean Water Act protections to vital streams and wetlands across Missouri, and protect Missourians’ drinking water.

“Right now, the streams that feed many of Missouri’s iconic rivers and the wetlands that keep them clean are at risk, their Clean Water Act protections thrown into doubt by polluter-backed rollbacks. We need to stop giving polluters a free pass and start protecting our waterways and our drinking water,” said Ted Mathys, Advocate with Environment Missouri.

One of America’s core environmental laws, the original Clean Water Act was intended to protect all of our 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.

Here in Missouri, this means that 66% of the streams in the state may no longer be protected by the Clean Water Act, according to the EPA. These streams feed the drinking water systems that supply more than 2.4 million Missourians with drinking water.

“The citizens of Missouri greatly value the quality of our 110,000 miles of streams,” said Holly Neill, Executive Director of the Missouri Stream Team Watershed Coalition. “Communities across our state depend them for drinking water, fishing, and swimming. The 86,000 volunteers that take part in Missouri’s nationally recognized Stream Team program to protect and improve our waterways attest to the importance Missourians place on our streams, and we are pleased that Clean Water Act protections for many of our waters will be clarified through this new guidance.”
EPA’s proposed guidance would provide predictable and consistent guidelines for agency officials on the ground to apply Clean Water Act jurisdiction over various categories of waters – including some wetlands, seasonal streams, and headwaters – that have been left vulnerable to pollution by two recent Supreme Court decisions and subsequent agency guidance.

Since September, Environment Missouri has been building support among Missourians for restoring the Clean Water Act, generating volumes of citizen comments and letters to the EPA encouraging this guidance and stressing its importance for public health and for Missouri’s recreational users.

“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 our vital waterways,” said Mathys. “Missouri’s local streams and wetlands not only feed our state’s larger waters, they are themselves important for communities who depend on them for fishing, swimming, and drinking water.” 
The release of this proposed guidance opens a 60-day public comment period, following which the guidance will be finalized.