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Clean Water Act

This week, the federal Clean Water Act turns 40.

You would think that the landmark legislation that helped to improve so many of the nation’s rivers, streams, ponds and lakes would be celebrated and be seen as “settled” law — something that should only be improved upon.

But that isn’t the case.

While tremendous strides have been made in cleaning up polluted waterways, efforts to make the water safe for activities such as swimming, fishing, etc., and, yes, what comes out of the tap, the Clean Water Act is under renewed fire. Motivated by political tunnel vision, there are forces at work in Congress that seek to weaken the law and its effectiveness.

Whether opposition to the Clean Water Act has its foundation in financial interests or the belief that the legislation is overreaching by the government, it runs counter to the best interests of Americans and the nation.

It’s important to recall that before the law, the nation’s waterways were too often used as a garbage disposal by industries and municipalities and that there was very little recourse in stopping such pollution. At that time, two-thirds of the country’s lakes, rivers and coastal waters were unsafe for fishing or swimming.

The evidence was clear, and members on both sides of the aisle in Congress saw that the federal government had to act. Along with establishing goals for cleaning up the pollution and restoring waterways to health, the act created a new framework for keeping waterways protected into the future.

One of those steps was giving the EPA authority to oversee pollution control programs.

And changes for the better began to take place.

But much work remains. Many of our lakes, ponds and streams, even ones that are being monitored, have not been given anything close to a clean bill of health. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, raw sewage continues to be dumped into our waterways at an estimated 850 billion gallons a year.

And if in today’s political climate there aren’t enough elected officials willing to see that the Clean Water Act deserves not just respect but protection, then it’s up to the citizens of this nation to get the message across.

Clean water is too important to take a step backwards.

Take a moment and make that clear to your elected representatives.

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