[Atlanta, GA] - 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.
"Georgians care deeply about clean water - for drinking, swimming, fishing and sustaining nature. Yet this Dirty Water Rule will leave the Chattahoochee, the Flint, the Altamaha and other waters vulnerable to pollution and degradation, and put our drinking water at risk,” said Jennette Gayer, Director of Environment Georgia. “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."
The Dirty Water Rule puts Georgia’s rivers at risk. As unprotected wetlands become degraded or paved over, they will no longer help filter out pollution before it reaches rivers like the Chattahoochee. Pollution from unprotected streams will flow into Georgia’s rivers as well.
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 Georgians 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.
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.
“With the Dirty Water Rule, the administration has put the interests of polluters over those of the public and our drinking water,” said Gayer. “We’ll be calling on Congress and the courts to uphold the Clean Water Act.”