WASHINGTON, D.C - (September 10, 2001) - More than 184 clean water advocates across the country filed comments with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today to protest Bush administration actions to delay Clinton-era changes to a critical Clean Water Act program. The groups, part of the Clean Water Network, an alliance of more than 1,000 environmental and other organizations including NRDC, charged that the delay in the July 2000 Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) regulations is the first step in the Bush administrations effort to reopen and weaken core aspects of the TMDL program.
"Weakening the Clean Water Act's primary program for cleaning up our nation's polluted waters would be a major environmental and public health setback for the American people, similar to recent administration actions to raise the amount of arsenic allowed in drinking water and roll back protections for our national forests," the groups' comments stated.
The TMDL program was a critical part of the original 1972 Clean Water Act and today provides the framework for cleaning up more than 20,000 polluted waterbodies identified by states. These waters are listed as polluted because they do not meet the most basic goal of the Clean Water Act -- safe waters for human fish consumption and recreation as well as for wildlife.
"Those who benefit most from further delays in cleaning up the nation's most polluted waterbodies are those responsible for polluting those waters," noted Tim Eichenberg, program counsel for the Ocean Conservancy. "While EPA sits on regulations to implement the TMDL program, more fish and wildlife are harmed, more drinking water is contaminated, and more public health warnings are posted at beaches and fishing holes. It is high time this program is implemented and enforced."
"The Bush administration has begun a nationwide retreat from efforts to clean up the country's polluted lakes, rivers, streams and beaches," said Joan Mulhern, legislative counsel for Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund and co-chair of the Clean Water Network Steering Committee. "The American public strongly supports clean water, and ranks cleaning up the nation's rivers, lakes and beaches as a top environmental priority. Any steps to weaken the TMDL program are actions that will condemn current and future generations to dirty water and unsanitary conditions."
"Reopening the TMDL regulations in order to weaken this critical Clean Water Act program -- as the administration clearly plans to do -- will make matters worse for communities across the country living with polluted waters," the groups' comments said.
The comment letter is available on the Clean Water Network's website at cwn.org.
The Clean Water Network is an alliance of over 1,000 organizations including environmentalists, family farmers, commercial fishermen, recreational anglers, surfers, boaters, faith communities, environmental justice advocates, tribes, labor unions, and civic associations.