Monday 22 April 2019

Proposed rule frees industry to dump toxic waste into streams, allows the destruction of millions of acres of wetlands, and threatens drinking water.

On December 11, 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled its proposal to replace the 2015 Clean Water Rule with a very narrow, unscientific definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS). This proposed rule contradicts the law and science that is the foundation for the Clean Water Act successes of the past 40 years, will remove Clean Water Act protections for millions of wetland acres and stream miles, and will cripple federal and state clean water initiatives for the foreseeable future. EPA’s proposal ignores the robust record in support of the Clean Water Rule, and intentionally limits the opportunity for affected communities to express their views about this proposal. This proposal would remove up to 60% of stream miles and up to 80% of wetland acres from federal protections under the Clean Water Act. 

“Clean water is essential for the health and sustainability of our families, communities and environment. Lest we forget -- we all live downstream. We have a responsibility, as a nation, to control pollution at its source and protect the drinking water sources of all residents – regardless of where they live,” said Betsy Nicholas, Executive Director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake. “In the Chesapeake region, streams and tributaries in the upper reaches of the Susquehanna, Potomac, Shenandoah, James and many other rivers, as well as a huge number of wetlands, would not receive protections under the Trump administration’s heartless scheme to repeal the Clean Water Rule.”

The Clean Water Rule was part of a larger effort to clarify the definition of “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. How WOTUS is defined is important because any waterway that meets the WOTUS definition receives Clean Water Act (CWA) protections. Under the Clean Water Rule’s updated definition of WOTUS, CWA protections extended to the drinking water sources of 117 million people across the United States – that’s one in three Americans.

EPA’s proposal would eliminate federal protections for areas that contain water only after rainfall and would no longer regulate groundwater, stormwater, wastewater and land already converted for crops. It would regulate wetlands or waterways only if they are clearly adjacent to navigable waterways above ground or through “direct subsurface connection.”

The proposal would drop federal oversight of gravel and sand pits, which are commonly used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and old quarries that fill up with water. It also would prevent federal officials from ordering changes in the handling of fertilizers that might spill into small waterways. The changes could benefit coal mining companies that lop off the tops of mountains and fill in valleys with waste, often creating ponds.

In rushing to publish the proposed rule, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers ignored science, violated the Administrative Procedure Act by halting enforcement of the Clean Water Rule, and failed to comply with either the Endangered Species Act or National Environmental Policy Act. Both laws require the federal government to “look before you leap” and ensure that the environmental consequences of a particular action will not cause unintended environmental damage.

We oppose this heartless scheme to repeal the 2015 Clean Water Rule and to gut the protections that have prevented reckless pollution of the nation's waterways for decades. Access to safe drinking water is a prerequisite for healthy, thriving communities, where everyone can participate, prosper and reach their full potential. This proposed rule would put water at risk for too many communities by removing protections for streams and wetlands across the nation and our region.

What you can do: Sign this petition today and stay tuned for more actions you can take to stop this attack on your clean water!

Recent years at Waterkeepers Chesapeake have been marked by pronounced growth in our organization and our capacity to protect clean water in the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays regions. Waterkeepers Chesapeake has been working hard to magnify the impact of each member organization to reduce pollution by focusing on long-term systemic change, organizing collective legal and advocacy campaigns, coordinating information and resources, and amplifying the voices of our Waterkeepers. Now Waterkeepers have more influence in the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays restoration efforts than ever.

Please explore some of what you have helped us achieve with your support and participation!

Passage of Groundbreaking Laws & Policies that Protect Water -

Voice for Water Quality -

  • Commented on key state and federal policies that affect local water quality
  • Watchdogged polluter-facilities that fall under state permits
  • Submitted Public Information Act requests based on water quality enforcement concerns

Built Powerful Movements –

  • Through our Fair Farms work, we have been able to utilize our relationship with farmers and our consumer base to garnish public support for food systems policies that also improve the health of our waterways. The Fair Farms campaign now has over 37,000 activated consumers and 178 partners!
  • Waterkeepers Chesapeake helped launch the Don’t Frack Maryland Coalition in 2015 to push for a long-term moratorium on fracking in Maryland. A two-year moratorium on fracking passed in 2015, and Don’t Frack Maryland continued on and called for a statewide ban. In March 2017, a statewide fracking ban passed, the result of a massive grassroots movement across Maryland, especially in Western Maryland, that demanded the legislature protect their families, livelihoods, and clean water and air from the irreversible damage caused by fracking.

Support to Member Waterkeepers -

  • Provided legal and communications support in our fight against the fracked gas Potomac Pipeline
  • Intervened in federal action to ensure that Conowingo Dam owner pays fair share of Susquehanna River cleanup efforts
  • Held various trainings and presentations on legal and policy advocacy

CLICK HERE to read more on our Waterkeepers Chesapeake work and impact.

Regulator has missed Safe Drinking Water Act deadlines for toxic and carcinogenic contaminants

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Waterkeeper Alliance, Waterkeepers Chesapeake, and California Coastkeeper Alliance today notified the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of their intent to sue the agency under the Safe Drinking Water Act because EPA has missed Safe Drinking Water Act deadlines for reviewing and regulating drinking water contaminants, including tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene, hexavalent chromium, and others. The environmental groups are represented in this matter by Reed W. Super, Esq. of Super Law Group, LLC.

EPA’s mandatory obligations under the Safe Drinking Water Act include identifying unregulated contaminants for monitoring and/or regulation, regulating those contaminants, and reviewing and revising existing drinking water regulations, all according to a specific timetable mandated by Congress. If EPA does not perform its mandatory obligations, we plan to file suit in early 2019.

The mandatory duties the groups intend to enforce in the upcoming lawsuit involve particular contaminants:

  • Chromium (including hexavalent chromium, the chemical best known from the movie “Erin Brockovich”) was regulated in 1991, with an enforceable limit of 100 parts per billion, based on the assumption that it was noncarcinogenic through oral exposure even though it is known to cause cancer when inhaled. Since then, the National Toxicology Program found “clear evidence of carcinogenic activity” when hexavalent chromium is ingested in drinking water. California set a goal of 0.2 parts per billion and an enforceable limit of 10 parts per billion. EPA has been studying it for many years but has not begun to revise it, or complete its review, well past the deadline for doing so.
  • Tetrachloroethylene (“PERC”), trichloroethylene (“TCE”), chlorite, cryptosporidium, haloacetic acids, heterotrophic bacteria, Giardia lamblia, Legionella, total trihalomethanes, and viruses. In 2010, EPA said the existing regulations for the solvents tetrachloroethylene (PERC) and trichloroethylene (TCE) should be revised to be more protective of human health. In 2017, EPA reached the same conclusion for the other eight contaminants listed here. But EPA has done nothing to develop revised regulations.

EPA also has a mandatory obligation under the Safe Drinking Water Act to make final regulatory determinations with respect to at least five contaminants published on the Candidate Contaminant List every five years. The fourth regulatory determinations were due by August 6, 2016.

EPA failed to publish by the February 6, 2018 deadline the fifth Candidate Contaminant List, which is the list of contaminants that are not subject to any proposed or promulgated National Primary Drinking Water Regulation, but are known or anticipated to occur in public water systems and may require regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. This is also due every five years.

“EPA has a clear legal obligation to monitor and regulate contaminants, including carcinogens, in our drinking water. It is not optional,” said Marc Yaggi, Waterkeeper Alliance’s Executive Director. “There is too much at stake for these waiting games to continue. If the agency continues to drag its feet, refusing to protect the public from harmful chemicals, we will sue to force it to do so.”

"The public puts its trust in government to ensure our drinking water is safe,” said Betsy Nicholas, Waterkeeper Chesapeake’s Executive Director. “Right now, that trust is broken because EPA is not fulfilling its obligation to monitor dangerous drinking water contaminants. It's a sad necessity that we must force the agency's hand to fulfill its most basic obligation to the people."

“The EPA’s job is to protect human health and the environment, and every month that the agency fails to set limits on chemicals used in dry-cleaning fluid, degreasers, refrigerants and other toxic substances that are detected in our drinking water is another month that Californians are put at risk for cancer, liver disease, and other illnesses,” said Sean Bothwell, California Coastkeeper Alliance’s  Executive Director. “At a time when California must do more to provide safe and affordable drinking water, California Coastkeeper Alliance is joining this lawsuit with the hope that the revised national standards will compel California to take bold action.”


Maia Raposo, Waterkeeper Alliance, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (212) 747-0622

Sean Bothwell, California Coastkeeper Alliance, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (949) 291-3401

Betsy Nicholas, Waterkeepers Chesapeake, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (202) 423-0504