Last night, I sought refuge from the oppressive heat by taking a long swim in the cool, clean water of our local lake. Families and young children packed the shallows where they found relief from record-breaking temperatures. Floating along in this happy summer scene, I could not help but think of how fortunate we are to live in a country where our laws recognize that our happiness, our safety, and our economy depend on our ability to keep our water clean.
In many places across the nation, the freedom to swim safely on a hot summer day was only a dream a generation ago when raw sewage and industrial pollution choked our nation’s waters. Without the pollution controls and infrastructure investments required by the Clean Water Act and the work of groups like CLF to ensure that the law was being followed over the last forty years, water that is “drinkable, fishable, and swimmable” would still be beyond the reach of most Americans. Yet there remain many rivers, lakes, and bays from New England to the Gulf of Mexico and beyond where the Clean Water Act’s promise of water safe for recreation, drinking, and wildlife conservation have yet to be fulfilled.
POLLUTION CAN MAKE YOU “DEATHLY SICK”
Earlier this month, Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe–one of the most anti-environmental members of Congress–received a stark reminder of how the dream of a swim on a hot summer day can quickly become a nightmare when we don’t have enough clean water. Inhofe reported getting “deathly sick” from an upper respiratory illness he contracted when he swam in Oklahoma’s Grand Lake during a recent blue-green algae bloom caused by the combination of excess pollution and extreme heat. Fortunately, his 13 year-old granddaughter had the good sense not to join him in the illness-inducing swim.
From Vermont’s Lake Champlain to Cape Cod to Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay and in many lakes, rivers, and streams along the way, pollution from poorly-treated human waste and dirty runoff from streets, parking lots, and agricultural operations is feeding the growth of harmful blue-green algae of the sort that made Senator Inhofe feel “deathly sick.” Added runoff from extreme rainfall events and hotter temperatures caused by global warming, will require even stronger clean water restoration and protection measures as we adapt in a changed climate.
THE CLEAN WATER ACT IS UNDER ATTACK
Sadly, some in Congress are attacking the EPA and the Clean Water Act, cynically attempting to free polluters of accountability under the false claim that pollution control is bad for the economy. Click here to read about some of the “dirty water” bills being pushed through Congress by the Tea Party and some powerful Democrats who are in the pocket of the coal companies.
Twenty-eight years ago, the heavily-polluted Boston Harbor beaches were the poster children for the unfulfilled goals of the Clean Water Act. Using enforcement tools under the Clean Water Act, CLF and U.S. EPA forced the beginning of a cleanup effort that many an overheated Bostonian can be grateful for as they head to the water this summer. The tremendous economic development that has occurred on the Boston waterfront as the water became cleaner is powerful proof that the Clean Water Act is a responsible and balanced tool for achieving many of society’s goals. CLF and EPA are continuing the work under the Clean Water Act to ensure that Boston Harbor beaches remain safe for swimming and that citizens in upstream communities along the Charles, Mystic, and Neponset Rivers enjoy the same freedom to boat and swim without fear of becoming sick from pollution.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
As the U.S. Senate starts to consider the “dirty water” bills coming from the House, Senators are faced with a clear choice. You can make a difference by calling or emailing your Senator and urging them to reject attempts to gut the Clean Water Act and weaken the EPA. Click here to find the phone number or email address for your Senator. Join CLF in speaking up for clean water before it’s too late.