Clean Air and Clean Water: Under Attack

Clean Air and Clean Water: Under Attack

Not surprisingly, surveys show that most of us want our children to grow up drinking clean water and breathing clean air. I know I do. In fact, I want cleaner air and water for my kids than I had when I grew up. Thankfully, we have a federal agency, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, that has worked hard over the past 40 plus years to give us that clean water and air we want and laws like the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act. That all sounds great, right?

Just as the cleanliness of our waters and air are, for the most part, on the up and up, some Members of Congress we voted into office are backing a steady stream of assaults to weaken protections that are being backed by lobbyists representing the industries that would be required to operate within those protections. These attacks run counter to the wishes of most of us, who expect our government to ensure healthy and safe air and water.

Over the past few months these lobbyists and Members of Congress have been attempting to do things like prevent the EPA from taking action without agreement from states, even if there is compelling scientific evidence of harm to human health and the environment or damage to downstream states (H.R. 2018). Another proposed bill in the House would cut funding to restore our Great Lakes and other waters by more than 50 percent, and it includes attachments to block the EPA from restoring the scope of the Clean Water Act to ensure that waterways are safe for swimming and recreation. Passed by the House, the Senate is considering legislation that would largely excuse harmful pesticide application from Clean Water Act compliance. As I write this the House is debating legislation that would delay new EPA rules to cut power plant emissions that blow pollution, as well as upcoming mercury standards for power plants.

So what does life look like for my kids if these efforts become our new reality? They love to go fishing, catch frogs, turtles and swim, spending a lot of time in ponds, rivers, and lakes. Eighty percent of pesticides or herbicides used in the United States are used by agriculture. These chemicals cause contamination when they run off or are sprayed into our waters.

We live in a watershed that has a fair amount of agriculture, so if we take away laws that limit pesticide use, odds are my kids could end up in water unknowingly saturated with these chemicals. According to Penn State University, pesticide poisoning can range from skin irritation to coma or even worse and individuals can vary in their reaction to exposure. As if I don’t have enough to try and protect them from as it is! And, we do live within 10 miles of two coal fired power plants. If we get rid of rules to clean up these sources of air pollution, they would be subject to increased risks of lung diseases like asthma and mercury poisoning from the fish they catch and eat. Oh boy, not what a mom wants to think about.

Thank goodness, we have the ability to stop this madness! Of all the reasons gov- ernment exists, none is more crucial than trying to keep its citizens safe, whether from a terrorist attack, or industrial poi- soning. No matter what side of the politi- cal line you are on, we can make sure our Members of Congress are willing to fight for clean water and clean air.

If you would like to know more about efforts to weaken our important protec- tions go to, www.freshwaterfuture.org.

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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.