WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, in an effort to increase protections for America’s waterways, Environment America staff and activists delivered comments from 29,000 Americans from across the country to the Environmental Protection Agency. The comments support the EPA’s report, Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters, which makes the scientific case for the EPA to close loopholes in the Clean Water Act that leave more than half of America’s streams and 20 million acres of wetlands at risk of unchecked pollution.
“Whether you want to kayak on Lake Michigan, fish in the South Platte River, or just drink the water that comes out of your tap, we all have a stake in clean water,” said Ally Fields, clean water advocate with Environment America. “With the drinking water for 117 million Americans at risk, it’s time for the EPA to act to protect all our waterways.”
The public comments were among more than 100,000 collected across the environmental community during a short 45-day comment period, and represent just a fraction of those across the country who are concerned about the health of their local waterways. The comments urge the EPA to follow through on the science of the report, which states that polluting smaller streams and wetlands that are not currently protected by the Clean Water Act has a demonstrable effect on waterways downstream. In September, the agency announced that it is moving forward with a formal rulemaking to restore Clean Water Act protections to streams and wetlands across the country.
“More than 100,000 people made their voices heard: All America’s waterways deserve our protection, from the Chesapeake Bay to Puget Sound,” said Fields. “The science here is common sense. We can’t protect even our most iconic waterways without protecting the streams and wetlands that feed and filter them.”
The comments came from everyday people who depend on our waterways for drinking water and recreation, scientists who know the importance of protecting our smaller waterways, and farmers who rely on clean water for their livelihood.
“We all want and need clean water, air and soil,” said Hiu Newcomb, owner of Potomac Vegetable Farms, “but all of us, from consumers to residents to businesses to farmers, teed to look at what we do that contributes to the pollution of our waterways.”
Environment America also delivered a letter from 73 scientists and academics in support of the report’s scientific findings and methods, and the EPA’s steps to protect our waterways. The academics came from all across the country and share a background in environmental issues.
“We thank the EPA for moving forward with the sound science and taking steps to protect our waterways,” Fields said. “We urge them to move forward with a formal rulemaking to ensure that places from the Chesapeake Bay to the Puget Sound get the protection they deserve.”
The delivery marked the end of the public comment period for the report, which will be reviewed at a public hearing in Washington, D.C., in mid-December. A draft rule to close loopholes in the Clean Water Act is expected to be formally proposed by the EPA in the coming months.