In 1972 a monumental victory was achieved for the environment and public health with the passing of the Clean Water Act. The Act was not a matter of political ideology, but a matter of common sense. It even survived a presidential veto by Nixon.
(And after that historic win we all lived happily ever after… right? Wrong.)
40 years later that historic win for the environment remains vulnerable to waves of legislative attacks and the changes in our administration every 4 to 8 years.
In light of learning about the current threats to the CWA, I decided to do some light reading on the history of the Act and the subsequent legislation introduced to weaken it. Did you know that there seems to be a constant wave of new legislation aiming to undermine and weaken the CWA? Why is there even thought of weakening this legislation when it is clearly a necessity for our nation? If you do not particularly care about the health of an ecosystem and the organisms that depend on it, fine, but what about the health of your family and the potential for polluted waters surrounding your homes?
I am genuinely curious as to the thought process of someone who aims to weaken the CWA. Part of me hopes that it is done out of sheer ignorance of the ramifications, because then at least it is not a deliberate, meticulous attack.
Are those that oppose this Act, and other legislation like it, proud of themselves? Do they think they are cool? That they are the big, tough bully on the playground? Because last time I checked it was not looking to good for the bully’s in our society any longer.
Clean, healthy, swimmable, fishable, drinkable, and any other “-able” you can think of in relation to water, is a right not a privilege, everybody deserves it. We are still trying to clean up our waters, so what gives a legislator the right to try to weaken the CWA and endanger the health of the public and the environment?
Our waters might not be on fire like the Cuyahoga River in 1969, but the pollution is still there. And no matter your political ideology or economic stature, everyone depends on fresh, clean water to survive.
We have made tremendous strides in Bay restoration, such as the issuance of the TMDLs and the WIP. Not to mention the countless organizations working to defend and maintain the progress made in the watershed. But even if we lived in a perfect world where everyone worked to clean up the Bay, we still have a long hard road ahead of us.
Just because the nation’s waterways are not physically on fire, does not make them any more clean or requiring any less restoration and regulatory measures. What does it say about our progress when you have to be mindful of where you swim and fish? Or if it rains, or if there is a storm, you have to throw any idea of entering the water, right out the window for at least a couple of days.
Two weeks ago I heard a news anchor assure the public that the smell in at the Inner Harbor was okay because it was just a decomposing algae bloom. Um, hello? Does anyone else find that a little disturbing that the public was reassured that a decomposing algae bloom was okay? Why are we not highlighting and educating the public on what caused the algae bloom, the pollution that fed it, and the implications that “safe” algae bloom has for the health of the Harbor and the Chesapeake Bay? The Chesapeake Bay is iconic to Maryland, cleaning it up should be common sense and threats to the CWA should not even be entertained.
We have come so far, but there is still so much to be done. Why are we letting our legislators jeopardize our clean water future? Legislators represent us, the constituents, so why are we letting some of them threaten our health by repeated attempts to undermine the Clean Water Act?