New Dirty Water Rule puts Pennsylvania’s rivers, drinking water at risk

Media Contacts

Trump administration action defies common sense and sound science


Harrisburg, PA – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today finalized a rule that leaves half the nation’s wetlands and thousands of streams — which help provide millions of Americans with drinking water — without the federal protection of the Clean Water Act.

“Pennsylvanians care deeply about clean water – for drinking, swimming, fishing and sustaining nature. Yet this Dirty Water Rule will leave the Delaware, Susquehanna and Ohio River – and many other waterways around the state – vulnerable to pollution, as well as put our drinking water at risk,” said Stephanie Wein, Clean Water Advocate. “Polluted water can make anyone sick — no matter where you live or your politics. This move defies common sense, sound science, and 50 years of bipartisan support for clean water.”

We’ve made such progress in cleaning up our waters, from Lake Erie to the Delaware River; but all that progress will be at risk if nearby streams and wetlands become degraded and polluted.

The rule also opens our drinking water sources to pollution.  According to U.S. EPA’s own data, intermittent and ephemeral streams help provide drinking water to 117 million Americans.  The Dirty Water Rule removes Clean Water Act protections for many of these streams, putting the drinking water of many Pennsylvanians at risk.

Noting the nexus among streams, wetlands, and larger waterways, the Dirty Water Rule was recently rebuked by EPA’s own science advisors.  

Public support for maintaining Clean Water Act protections is widespread. More than one million Americans — including business owners, local officials, scientists, and hunters and anglers — provided comments to EPA, urging the agency to protect streams and wetlands under the Act, including tens of thousands from Pennsylvania.

But lobbyists for corporate agribusiness, developers, and the oil and gas industry have long demanded that federal protections be removed for streams and wetlands. Pollution from agribusinesses contributes to toxic algal outbreaks, fish kills, dead zones, drinking water contamination and fecal bacteria that can make swimmers sick. Some developers are eager to build on wetlands and the oil and gas industry has countless pipelines running through them.

Pennsylvania’s Members of Congress are speaking up too.  Representatives Madeleine Dean (PA-4), Susan Wild (PA-7), Matthew Cartwright (PA-8) recently co-sponsored a House resolution urging EPA to reverse course on the Dirty Water Rule and several other attacks on clean water.

“The dirty water rule is a moment of truth for every single representative in Congress,” said Stephanie Wein, Clean Water Advocate at PennEnvironment. “And Representatives Dean, Cartwright and Wild are not sitting silently as this administration rips up protections for our rivers, our lakes and our drinking water.”

“With the Dirty Water Rule, the administration has put the interests of polluters over those of the public and our drinking water,” said Wein. “We’ll be calling on Congress and the courts to uphold the Clean Water Act.”


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