Our haste to undo our planet, we are rapidly writing a death sentence for the earth and water which give us life. Apparently we are doing this in order to make a few rich men richer. This has happened so suddenly it is just now sinking in for some of us.
In the past we have had our criticism of the EPA, almost always because they do not protect enough, but destroying it is unthinkable. Yet, that is exactly the road we are on.
Linda Bystrak has written an article in the online Daily Commercial about this incredible dismantling of years of work toward preserving our resources.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
EPA and our water is under attack
Posted Mar 19, 2017 at 2:01 AM
On Feb. 3, 2017, HB 861 was introduced into Congress by Rep. Matt Gaetz from Florida to abolish EPA. Three other Republican congressmen have co-sponsored the bill. All four of these members of the GOP have received large campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry.
On Feb. 17, Scott Pruitt became the head of the EPA. As the former attorney general of Oklahoma, he sued the EPA at least 13 times.
On Feb. 28, President Trump signed an executive order to dismantle EPA’s Clean Water Rule. This rule determines which streams, wetlands, rivers and lakes are to be protected by the Clean Water Act, which was passed in 1972. The rule was based on over 1,200 scientific studies. In 2009, EPA identified over 234,000 miles of streams that provide drinking water to Americans. These streams are part of the Source Protection Areas and have been identified as the headwaters of a water utility source. Over 117 million Americans get some of their drinking water from these streams. It also could have protected over 6,000 miles of streams from mountaintop coal removal. Wetlands are important as filters for our water, and the Clean Water Rule would also identify which ones need protection. Wetlands can also absorb floodwaters, and release water slowly during droughts.
In the newly proposed EPA budget there is a 19 percent reduction in staff and a 25 percent reduction in overall funding. For example, there is a 35 percent reduction for Safe and Sustainable Water Resources and a 13 percent drop in compliance Monitoring. There is a 30 percent cut to states for each of the programs dealing with water pollution control, drinking water and underground Injection. In Florida, most of our drinking water comes from our aquifers, and the practice of aquifer storage and recharge or underground injection for reclaimed sewage water is not uncommon. There is already a large recharge facility in Clermont, and there are plans for more such facilities throughout Florida. Endocrine disrupting chemicals are a concern for these facilities. Unfortunately, there is also a 94 percent reduction in research programs for endocrine disrupting chemicals (pesticides, drugs, and chemicals suspected of affecting hormones).
EPA budget cuts for the restoration of the Great Lakes (97 percent) and the Chesapeake Bay (93 percent) will not bother most of our Florida residents unless they have family or summer homes in those areas. However, the 100 percent cut to states for beach water quality testing and the 15 percent reduction in the marine pollution program may have an effect on Floridians.
Since EPA was created, lead has been removed from our gas and paint, and lead levels in the blood of American children today is 0.1 percent of what it was when their grandparents were children. There has been a 90 percent decrease in auto emissions per mile and a 67 percent drop in the concentration of other common air pollutants. DDT and some other harmful pesticides are no longer used in the U.S. After 1993, when EPA classified second hand smoke as a carcinogen, cigarette smoking became less common. Sewage treatment facilities have improved their performance and there are more of them. Recycling of municipal wastes has increased, and hazardous wastes have been removed from over 18 million acres of land. These are just a few of the agency’s many accomplishments.
EPA needs our support now more than ever. Phone calls and e-mails to your congressman are desperately needed. Ask, then, to stop the cuts to the EPA budget. Tell them how important it is to protect our environment. We owe it to our children and grandchildren.
Celebrate Earth Day on April 22. Over 20 million people worldwide celebrated the first one in 1970. In 2017, in Washington, D. C. there will be an Earth Day rally for those who support science and the environment. In Orlando and Mount Dora, there will be smaller celebrations. Now is the time to show your support, while we still have an EPA.
Linda Bystrak is a former member of the Lake County Water Authority board of directors and the Lake Soil and Water Conservation District board.