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Opinion: Clean Water Act still essential

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Clean Water Act still essential

The Clean Water Act was passed 40 years ago Thursday, and it continues to benefit our lives. You have the Clean Water Act to thank if you drink tap water and know it comes from a safe and protected reservoir, or if you bring your family to the beach and swim without getting sick from sewage.

This extraordinary law has accomplished a tremendous amount in 40 years. When Congress passed the bill, the Cuyahoga River had repeatedly caught fire, 26 million fish died from contamination in one lake in Florida, and dumping raw sewage into rivers and lakes was standard practice. Between 60 and 70 percent of America’s lakes, rivers, and coastal water were considered unsafe for fishing and swimming in 1972.

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The Clean Water Act reversed these destructive trends by transforming the way America views water. We used to treat water bodies like big trashcans—an easy place to dump our garbage, industrial waste, and sewage. The Clean Water Act declared that nobody had the right to treat our shared water resources as their private dumpster. It made all discharges into the nation’s water against the law unless you had a permit and met baseline standards.

Making polluters responsible for their mess has improved public health and revived local economies. When waterfronts became giant garbage bins, cities turned their backs on these valuable resources. Now that our water has gotten cleaner, people are coming to stroll, dine, play sports, attend concerts, and even swim. Riverfront parks and redevelopment have become vibrant community centers, from the Hudson River in New York, to the Missouri River in Kansas City, to the Salt River in Tempe, Arizona.

Strong standards for clean water have driven these improvements. Yet some lawmakers in Congress would like to turn back the clock. In the last year and a half, House Republicans have voted over 300 times to undermine public health and environmental safeguards, including many related to our waterways. They have tried to cut funding for the treatment plants that keep sewage out of our waterways and the projects that will restore the Chesapeake Bay, the Florida Everglades and other iconic waterways.


Written by vaphc

October 19, 2012 at 10:09 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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