“The first river you paddle runs through the rest of your life. It bubbles up in pools and eddies to remind you who you are.” -Lynn Noel 

Don’t turn back the clock

People in California enjoy and depend on our waters. They’re where we love to swim, fish, canoe, kayak or just enjoy the scenery. They supply us with clean drinking water. We should be doing all we can to protect them.

In the last year alone, however, three cases reminded us of the bad old days, when polluters used many of America’s waters as their own private sewers:

In January, a 10,000-gallon chemical spill into West Virginia’s Elk River left 300,000 people without water. They couldn’t drink it, bathe in it, shower with it, cook with it, or even wash the dishes with it.


After a Duke Energy pipeline collapsed in February, more than 39,000 tons of coal ash spread 70 miles down North Carolina’s Dan River.


In August, a toxic algae bloom left 400,000 people in and around Toledo, Ohio, without drinking water. The algae contained cyanotoxina substance so potent that the military considered “weaponizing” it.

We’ve worked hard to protect our waters and we’re doing all we can now to keep polluters from turning back the clock to the days when Ohio’s Cuyahoga River was so polluted that it caught on fire. 

Even greater jeopardy

Unfortunately, polluting industries have put our waters in even greater jeopardy. They’ve been pushing to weaken the Clean Water Act ever since it first passed more than 40 years ago. After spending millions of dollars on lobbyists and lawyers, they’ve carved loopholes in the law that leave more than half of America’s streams open to pollution.

That’s nearly 2 million miles of our streams at risk, threatening the drinking water of 117 million Americans. They also put at risk 20 million acres of wetlands, an area the size of South Carolina and home to millions of birds and fish. 

As a result of these loopholes, hundreds of polluters are escaping any penalties. 

For example, as Pro Publica reported, “in 2007, when an oil company discharged thousands of gallons of crude oil into Edwards Creek in Titus County, Tex., the EPA did not issue a fine, pursue legal action or even require cleanup.

“Similarly, after a farming operation dumped manure into tributaries that fed Lake Blackshear in Georgia, the EPA did not seek to hold the polluting company responsible—despite the fact that tests showed unsafe levels of bacteria and viruses in the lake, which was regularly used for waterskiing and other recreation.”

In a single 18-month period, Clean Water Act loopholes undermined 500 EPA water pollution cases.

So Environment America took our case to the Obama administration, urging the EPA to restore Clean Water Act protection to all of our waters. We helped mobilize more than 800,000 Americans, including more than 400 mayors and other local officials, to join our call for action. 

Fortunately, the EPA agreed to act, proposing a new rule that would close the loopholes so the agency can enforce the law and stop the polluters.

"Legal warfare"

However, polluting industries are lobbying furiously to stop us.

Among our adversaries on this issue are big oil and gas companies, which have thousands of miles of pipelines running through wetlands. They’ve threatened legal warfare against the plan to restore protections to these wetlands. 

Coal companies, which are dumping the wastes from their mining into mountain streams, stand to benefit if the Clean Water Act fails to protect these streams.

Powerful developers want to pave over wetlands without restrictions. A Michigan developer named Rapanos filed one of the court cases that created the loopholes. 

Huge factory farms each year generate millions of pounds of animal manure, some of which runs off into our water. These big agribusinesses and their congressional allies unleashed a smear campaign, designed to scare ordinary farmers into believing the EPA was out to grab their land and even “regulate puddles.” The smears are, of course, completely untrue.

We choose clean water. Will the U.S. Senate?

Still, on Sept. 9 despite the ongoing threats to our water, the U.S. House voted to stop the EPA from closing the clean water loopholes -- with lawmakers repeating the polluters’ talking points. [10]

Now the polluters are pushing for a vote in the U.S. Senate to keep the EPA from ever being able to close these loopholes.

It’s this simple: If enough senators choose clean water, we’ll win. If too many side with the polluters, we could lose.

That’s why we need your help right now. Tell your senators to choose clean water. 

Clean Water Updates

News Release | Environment America

Statement: Bipartisan water infrastructure effort could halt sewage pollution

The U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held a hearing today on the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF), highlighting the need for a new, bipartisan bill that would more than double the CWSRF authorization to $4 billion per year. From Arizona’s leaky pipes to New England’s sewage overflows, America needs to get serious about our water systems. That means dramatically increasing investments in water infrastructure that focus on prevention. We applaud U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio, Grace Napolitano, Don Young, and John Katko for introducing their bipartisan water infrastructure bill, which takes aim at this problem.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Environment America

Statement: PFAS hearing elevates need for policy reform

Today, the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a hearing on the risks of toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Witnesses will include senior staff from the Department of Defense (DoD), as well as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It’s been six months since Congress’s first hearing on PFAS, and we still have a long way to go. On one hand, DoD needs to clean up their mess at military bases and prevent future contamination. And on the other, EPA needs to protect our health by limiting the use of PFAS, and by setting a strong drinking water standard of one part per trillion for the whole class of chemicals.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Environment America

Statement: EPA faces Dirty Water Rule backlash at public hearing

In Kansas City, Kansas, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold the first and only public hearing today for the Dirty Water Rule—the proposed replacement to the 2015 Clean Water Rule. This is an unprecedented assault on clean water, and Americans won’t stand for it. As EPA works to open our waters to polluters, today’s public backlash is well-deserved.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Environment America

Statement: EPA commits to PFAS drinking water standards

Following pressure from lawmakers and groups such as Environment America, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agreed today to begin setting enforceable drinking water standards on two toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). We commend the EPA for listening to the community, incorporating critical feedback, and responding appropriately to protect our drinking water from PFAS contamination.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Environment America

Statement: PFAS management plan falls short

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a “PFAS Management Plan” today that fails to establish drinking water standards for toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

> Keep Reading

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