Thousands supporting clean water submit comments on 'Waters of the U.S.' definition

More than 700,000 Americans have written to support a plan to protect streams and wetlands nationwide that are vulnerable to pollution, and on a coalition of conservation organizations and clean water advocates have delivered their comments to the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers.

WASHINGTON, DC, Oct. 29, 2014 -- More than 700,000 Americans have written to support a plan to protect streams and wetlands nationwide that are vulnerable to pollution, and on Wednesday, Oct. 22, a diverse coalition of conservation organizations and clean water advocates delivered their comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers. The two agencies have proposed a rule that will help fix problematic language in the Clean Water Act (CWA) that leaves streams, wetlands and other waterbodies vulnerable to pollution (see "EPA, Army Corps propose rule to clarify protection for U.S. streams, wetlands").

The groups presented the comments in support of clarifying the definition of Waters of the U.S. under the CWA to Ken Kopocis, deputy assistant administrator of EPA's Office of Water, along the banks of the Anacostia River in Bladensburg, Md. The event coincided with the kick-off of Wilderness Inquiry's "Canoe Mobile" program, which will bring 1,000 children from local schools over the next two weeks to paddle the Anacostia -- one of the nation's CWA success stories.

This year has seen a number of accidents and spills that have compromised the health of America's rivers and jeopardized drinking water supplies for tens of thousands of people. In January, 300,000 West Virginians were left without drinking water after 7,500 gallons of chemicals spilled into the Elk River (see "W. Va. chemical spill shuts down capital city, water supplies"). A month later, tens of thousands of tons of coal ash leaked into the Dan River in North Carolina (see "Duke Energy NC coal ash spill signifies third largest in U.S. history"). And this summer, toxic algae fueled by polluted runoff poisoned the water supply of Toledo, Ohio, a city of 400,000 (see "Toledo water resources contaminated by toxin from algae in Lake Erie").

America's lakes, streams and rivers are at risk of continuing to be polluted. This is a result of certain decisions regarding the CWA leaving the status of around 60 percent of America's streams and millions of acres of wetlands vague or uncertain, ultimately making them vulnerable to pollution and destruction. In fact, one in three Americans -- 117 million people -- receive their drinking water from waters affected by these unprotected sources.

Securing clean water downstream means there must be protections in place that safeguard healthy headwaters upstream. EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have proposed restoring protections to 2 million miles of streams and 20 million acres of wetlands through the Waters of the U.S. rule (www2.epa.gov/uswaters). The public comment period for the updated safeguards closes Friday, Nov. 14.

The groups who presented comments to EPA officials last week included: Environment America, Clean Water Action, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation, League of Conservation Voters, American Rivers, and National Parks Conservation Association. Also making remarks were Marie Therese Dominquez, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army (Civil Works); Chad Lord, senior director for water policy at the National Parks Conservation Association; Chad Dayton, director of programs and partner relations for Wilderness Inquiry; and James Foster, president of the Anacostia Watershed Society.

See also:

"Proposed 'Waters of the U.S.' Rule Met with Strong Opposition"

"Debate Continues over Proposed 'Waters of the U.S.' Rulemaking"

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