No Bridge Over These Troubled Waters

By new contributor Marguerite Manteau Rao. If you feel like writing for us, drop us an email!

October 18, 2007 marks the 35th anniversary of the U.S. Clean Water Act, a landmark law intended to restore and maintain the quality and purity of the nation’s waters.

Polluted Water

In passing the Clean Water Act, Congress set the goals of eliminating the discharge of pollutants into the nation’s waterways by 1985 and making all U.S. waterways fishable and swimmable by 1983. U.S PIRG just released its latest report, Troubled Waters: An analysis of 2005 Clean Water Act compliance, and it is not pretty. U. S. PIRG is the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups, a network of researchers, advocates, organizers and students who take on powerful special interest groups on a wide range of issues, including environmental challenges such as the preservation of clean air and water and the protection of open space.

Using information provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the report analyzes all major facilities that exceeded their Clean Water Act permits between January 1, 2005 and December 31, 2005. The findings show a pattern of flagrant violations, from 3600 (57%) US major facilities. The consequences are widespread throughout US waterways:

• 39% of rivers, 46% of lakes, and 51% of estuaries are impaired for one or more uses, and so still too polluted for safe fishing or swimming.

• More than 20,000 bodies of water throughout the US are too polluted to meet basic water quality standards.

• Polluters discharged more than 240 million pounds of toxic chemicals into waterways in a single year.

• At least 850 billion gallons of raw sewage are dumped into US waterways every year.

The report is a damning condemnation of the Bush administration’s policies in respect to the current state of US waters. Quoted from the report, ‘Over the last six years, the Bush administration has suggested, proposed or enacted numerous policies that undermine the Clean Water Act and threaten the future of America’s rivers, lakes, streams, wetlands and coastal waters. The administration has not only undercut the Clean Water Act, but also eliminated Clean Water Act protections from key waterways altogether.’

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and the folks at Waterkeeper Alliance have their work cut out for them . . .

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