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Don't dismantle U.S. water safeguards
David Kyler
David Kyler is executive director of the St. Simon’s Island-based Center for a Sustainable Coast.

The Trump Administration is proposing to weaken safeguards that protect water quality under the federal Clean Water Act.

They unconvincingly assert that rule changes adopted during the Obama presidency are imposing hardships on farmers and developers.

But objective review indicates that the Obama-era rule simply clarifies those areas to be regulated under the 1972 Clean Water Act. Moreover, that clarification was carefully crafted to prevent impinging unfairly on typical farming activities.

It seems evident that the Trump roll-back is intended to constrain federal control of water pollution, subverting valuable protections that have existed for nearly five decades. By weakening such safeguards, the public will be threatened by compromised quality of drinking water and contaminated fisheries to accommodate polluters.

At the heart of this dispute is an elementary characteristic of water - that it flows, and if it’s contaminated, pollutants will be carried from small streams and wetlands into major sources of water-supply and important fishery areas.

Under Trump’s proposal, nearly a fifth of U.S. streams would be left unprotected, as well as wetlands connected to waterways underground, not at the surface - more than half of all freshwater wetlands in America.

This roll-back would prohibit regulation of these waters, regardless of pollutants they contain. That would significantly weaken the role of the courts in determining when federal authority can be used to prevent public harm. 

Similarly, Trump’s proposal would prevent citizens from filing lawsuits when their health and/or property are jeopardized by pollution of small streams and many wetlands.

David Kyler 

Center for a 

Sustainable Coast

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