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EPA Still Accepting Comments on Plan to Reduce Clean Water Act Protections

Nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from farms currently is the single largest source of pollution in U.S. waterways. (USDA)
Nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from farms currently is the single largest source of pollution in U.S. waterways. (USDA)
March 29, 2019

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Time is running out for public comments on a federal proposal to lift pollution controls on certain smaller streams and bodies of water, including thousands of miles of Wyoming waterways.

The Environmental Protection Agency says Clean Water Act protection should no longer apply to small streams and pools that are seasonal, intermittent or not connected on the surface to a larger body of water.

Scott Edwards, co-director of the Food and Water Justice project at Food and Water Watch, says these changes would allow large-scale pollution and damage critical ecosystems.

"And what this rule does, as many other Trump-era rules have done, is take science out of the equation and try to create these rules that are really just designed to allow more development and less protection of our waterways," says Edwards.

People have less than three weeks to share their views, online at 'Regulations.gov,' about the proposed changes to the Waters of the United States rule, also known as WOTUS. The EPA has argued that lifting the regulations would provide more certainty for farmers, ranchers and land developers.

The rule is widely expected to result in the loss of protections for more than 50 percent of the nation's wetlands and 18 percent of streams.

Edwards notes that protecting waterways is ultimately important because that's where most people get their drinking water. He says the health of the watershed needs to be considered when developers come calling to build homes or shopping centers, or even start up a new farm.

"All of these permitting, studies, environmental impact assessments that are required before you do any of these things is a critical part of the protection," says Edwards. “And keeping these waterways clean is critical, we do not live without clean waterways."

Edward notes that farming currently is the single largest source of pollution in U.S. waterways.

Nitrogen and phosphorus pollution coming off farms can cause algae to grow faster than ecosystems can handle. Die-off of algae blooms cuts off oxygen for fish, and blue-green algae can produce harmful toxins if ingested by humans and animals.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY