WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the Obama administration has taken a significant step forward in clarifying the science connecting America’s waterways and the drinking water for millions across the country. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board released a report today, “Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters: A Review and Synthesis of the Scientific Evidence” that reviews the scientific literature outlining the impact that small waterways have on larger bodies of water downstream. At the same time, the Obama administration announced it is moving forward with a rule to clarify protections for America’s waterways.
“From the Chesapeake Bay to Puget Sound, and all the smaller waterways in between, Americans care deeply about protecting our most beloved waterways, but we can’t protect these bodies of water unless we protect the smaller streams and wetlands that feed into and protect them,” said Ally Fields, clean water advocate for Environment America. “We are thrilled to see the EPA moving forward with this sound scientific process and encourage the Obama administration to continue on this track to protect America’s waterways.”
The report and rulemaking follow a decade of confusion over the scope of the Clean Water Act in the wake of polluter-driven Supreme Court cases. According to EPA data, the loopholes in the Clean Water Act as it stands now leave 59 percent of streams across the country unprotected. The EPA’s “Connectivity” report pulls together the existing science on these streams, wetlands and other unprotected waterways and outlines their connection to downstream waters.
Americans across the country have spoken out in support of protecting all of America’s waterways – more than 200,000 public comments were submitted to EPA, and more than 430 local elected officials and 180 farmers have encouraged the Obama administration to restore critical protections to our waterways.
“Loopholes in the Clean Water Act have left the drinking water for 117 million Americans at risk of dangerous pollution,” Fields said. “This report pulls together the best science available on how our smaller lakes, streams and wetlands are connected to iconic waterways across the country. We look forward to fully reviewing the report and the rule and hope that they move us forward in protecting all of America’s waterways.”
The EPA will now hold a 45 day public comment period for review of the report to ensure the best possible peer review of the document. The scientist panel is expected to reassemble in December to hear further comment and incorporate any necessary changes to the report’s findings. The rulemaking process will continue with internal review at Office of Management and Budget before a rule is formally proposed and released to the public for comment.