This spring, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took some long-overdue steps to fix the Clean Water Act, ending confusion over which streams and wetlands are protected by the law. Loopholes in the law created over the past decade have left more the half the stream miles in the U.S. and drinking water sources for 100 percent of Baltimore City residents at risk from pollution and development.
Polluters and their allies in Congress are fighting tooth and nail to block the EPA from taking this common sense step to protect clean water. In the U.S. House and Senate, they're throwing a series of "dirty water" amendments and riders into the budget and appropriations process, hoping to sneak something through.
On behalf of its 100,000 Maryland members and supporters, Clean Water Action urges U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski to oppose all dirty water amendments and riders proposed for the FY 2015 Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. Senator Mikulski is a key clean water leader on the Senate panel which will get first crack at these measures.
What's at stake for Baltimore City? Some 835 miles of streams that flow into drinking water sources for 1.6 million Baltimore City residents as well as other streams, wetlands and wildlife habitat. All of these precious resources will remain at risk until the EPA is allowed to complete its work fixing the Clean Water Act.
We shouldn't have to worry if the water we rely on for drinking, swimming and fishing is polluted. Nationally, drinking water sources for more than 117 million Americans are threatened and communities are more vulnerable to pollution and flooding.
Until these Clean Water Act loopholes are closed as EPA is proposing, large companies and industries remain free to dump their waste into seasonal streams and smaller ponds or wetlands, virtually without controls or consequences. Local tributaries that feed into larger waterways such as the Back River, Gwynn's Falls, Jones Falls, the Patapsco River or the Inner Harbor all need to be protected.
EPA's proposal is based on sound science and will better protect rivers, bays and lakes, our drinking water sources, and will reduce flooding and support habitat for fish and wildlife. In Maryland this means millions of dollars in our economy and hundreds of thousands of jobs, too.
Senator Mikulski needs to show her concern for protecting the drinking water of Baltimore residents and all Marylanders and to take a stand for clean water. We can't allow polluters and their allies to hijack the government's budget as a back-door way to advance their dirty water agenda.
William Fadely, Baltimore
The writer is Baltimore program organizer for Clean Water Action.
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