Craft Brewers Oppose New Water Pollution Loophole

Today, 38 craft breweries around the country submitted a letter opposing the Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to stop controlling pollution that flows through groundwater into rivers, streams, and lakes. The new policy, announced on April 15, would allow polluters to avoid Clean Water Act requirements by dumping pollution a few feet away from a waterway, or by injecting it underground, even if that pollution ultimately ends up in surface water. As a result, the proposed change would threaten drinking water sources around the country, including the water that many breweries use to brew beer.

The brewers that signed the letter are partners in NRDC's Brewers for Clean Water campaign. Here's what they said (and here's how members of the public can weigh in, too):


Dear Administrator Wheeler:

We oppose your proposal not to require Clean Water Act permits for pollution discharges into waterways through groundwater. This policy change would endanger the water sources that our craft breweries depend on to brew our beer.

Beer is mostly water, so the quality of our source water significantly affects our finished product. Compounds present in brewing water can affect pH, color, aroma, and taste. Sulfates make hops taste astringent, while chlorine can create a medicinal off-flavor. The presence of bacteria can spoil a batch of beer. Even small chemical disruptions in our water supply can influence factors like shelf life and foam pattern.

Unexpected changes in water quality—due to pollution in our source water, or a change in the treatment process at our local drinking water plant—can threaten our brewing process and our bottom line. We need reliable sources of clean water to consistently produce the great beer that is key to our success. It is thanks in part to this important natural resource that the craft brewing industry contributes about $76.2 billion to the U.S. economy each year, along with more than 500,000 jobs.

EPA’s proposal to stop controlling pollution that flows through groundwater before entering a nearby waterway threatens our most important ingredient. The federal government and the states have required permits for this type of pollution for decades—and for good reason. Sewage injection wells, mining activities, pipelines, coal ash dumps, and animal waste ponds can all pollute surface water bodies by way of groundwater. This contamination must be controlled to keep our water safe for drinking and brewing.

The goal of the Clean Water Act is to protect water quality. It makes no sense to regulate pollution discharged directly into a river while creating an exemption that freely allows polluters to dump waste into groundwater that flows into the same river. The end result is the same: contaminated water that puts public health, and our beer, at risk.

We ask you not to roll back clean water protections by creating this dangerous pollution loophole. Protecting clean water is central to our long-term business success. Moreover, it is vital to the health and the economy of the communities where we live and work. EPA should withdraw this policy change and continue to protect the water sources on which our businesses depend.

Thank you for considering our views on this important matter.

Sincerely,

Allagash Brewing Company (Portland, ME)

Alliance Brewing Company (Knoxville, TN)

Appalachian Mountain Brewery (Boone, NC)

Birdsong Brewing Company (Charlotte, NC)

Blue Point Brewing Company (Patchogue, NY)

BrewDog (Columbus, OH)

Brewery Techne (Philadelphia, PA)

Brooklyn Brewery (Brooklyn, NY)

Bull City Burger & Brewery (Durham, NC)

Cisco Brewers (Nantucket, MA)

Earth Bread + Brewery (Philadelphia, PA)

Eastern Market Brewing Co. (Detroit, MI)

Engrained Brewery & Restaurant (Springfield, IL)

Fibonacci Brewing Company (Cincinnati, OH)

Fiddlin’ Fish Brewing Company (Winston-Salem, NC)

Flossmoor Station Brewing Company (Flossmoor, IL)

Flying Fish Brewing Co. (Somerdale, NJ)

Founders Brewing Company (Grand Rapids, MI)

Fremont Brewing (Seattle, WA)

Grand Rapids Brewing Company (Grand Rapids, MI)

Greenstar Organic Brewing (Chicago, IL)

Half Acre Beer (Chicago, IL)

HopCat (Grand Rapids, MI)

Horse & Dragon Brewing Company (Fort Collins, CO)

Kona Brewing Co. (Kailua-Kona, HI)

Lakefront Brewery (Milwaukee, WI)

Naked River Brewing Company (Chattanooga, TN)

New Belgium Brewing (Fort Collins, CO)

Redhook Brewery (Seattle, WA)

Sailfish Brewing Company (Fort Pierce, FL)

Sanctuary Brewing Company (Hendersonville, NC)

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. (Chico, CA)

Starr Hill Brewery (Crozet, VA)

Temperance Beer Co. (Evanston, IL)

Widmer Brothers Brewing (Portland, OR)

Wild Wolf Brewing Company (Nellysford, VA)

Wynwood Brewing Co. (Miami, FL)

Zed’s Beer (Marlton, NJ)

About the Authors

Becky Hammer

Deputy Director, Federal Water Policy; Senior Attorney, Nature Program

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