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Cahaba River Society Statement on Repeal of Clean Water Rule

Beth K. Stewart, Executive Director

June 27, 2017

EPA’s action today to repeal the Clean Water Rule seriously weakens clean water safeguards and threatens the Cahaba and our drinking water.

The Clean Water Rule is a science-based, necessary restoration of the scope of the Clean Water Act. EPA should not repeal it and allow uncontrolled pollution discharge that will make its way into water resources that people and wildlife depend on.

This matters in the Cahaba River Watershed. In 2004, it was only because of the original scope of the Act that we were able to stop horrendous chicken processing waste from being dumped into a small seasonal creek that eventually fouled our entire river above the drinking water intake. Without the new rule, pollution dumping in headwater streams could go unchecked.

What can I do?

  • Learn more and protest EPA’s repeal of the Clean Water Ruleprotectcleanwater.org.
  • Click here to view a fact sheet for more information.
  • Click here to see a sign-on letter for groups or as a model for your personal letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

A real world example of why this matters:

An old Gold Kist chicken processing plant used to dump chicken waste from a failing treatment system into a small seasonal creek near Trussville. That stream eventually flowed past Camp Coleman and into the Cahaba River above the drinking water intakes. A big stretch of river was seriously polluted by the waste. CRS, AL Environmental Council, and Southern Environmental Law Center teamed to bring a successful lawsuit that halted the pollution in 2004.

Back then the Clean Water Act stood firm. The clean up of that pollution dumping meant Girl Scouts could safely swim in the River at Camp Coleman again. It cut the nutrient pollution from piped sources in the entire Cahaba watershed by half, cleaning up milky, algae-choked, fish-killing waters.

But if we brought that action today, the citizen lawsuit could be thrown out of court. Does that make any sense? US Supreme Court cases had created confusion about whether the Clean Water Act protects small headwater streams, wetlands. EPA’s Clean Water Rule was based on a thorough, science-based process to identify how water resources are interconnected and what waters – such as small streams and wetlands – should be specifically protected from pollution under the Act.

What was the process to develop the clean water safeguards that the Trump Administration axed? An extensive scientific report was peer reviewed by the independent Science Advisory Board and received more than 130,000 comments. The Clean Water Rule had a 5-month public comment process and generated 1.1 million comments, 80% of which were supportive.

EPA’s rush action to rescind the rule ignores all of this. The Trump Administration’s action is putting drinking water for the Birmingham region and more than 117 million Americans at risk. According to SELC, the rescission of this rule threatens isolated wetlands and over half (54 percent) of the stream miles that supply water for public drinking water systems for 2.6 million people in our state.

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