RICHMOND – Today the Obama administration has taken a significant step forward in clarifying the science connecting America’s waterways and the drinking water for millions across the country. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board released a report today, Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters: A Review and Synthesis of the Scientific Evidence, which reviews the scientific literature outlining the impact that small waterways have on larger bodies of water downstream.
At the same time, the Obama administration is expected to move forward with a rule to clarify protections for America’s waterways.
“From the Potomac and James Rivers to the Chesapeake Bay, and all the smaller waterways in between, Virginians care deeply about protecting our most beloved waterways, but we can’t protect these bodies of water unless we protect the smaller streams and wetlands that feed into and protect them,” said Sarah Bucci, campaign director for Environment Virginia. “We are thrilled to see EPA moving forward with this sound scientific process and encourage the Obama administration to continue on this track to protect America’s waterways.”
The report and expected rulemaking follow a decade of confusion over the scope of the Clean Water Act in the wake of polluter-driven Supreme Court cases. According to EPA data, the loopholes in the Clean Water Act as it stands now leave 57 percent of streams in Virginia unprotected.
EPA’s report pulls together the existing science on these streams, wetlands, and other unprotected waterways and then outlines their connection to downstream waters. Americans across the country have spoken out in support of protecting all of America’s waterways: more than 200,000 public comments were submitted to EPA, and more than 430 local elected officials, including 35 from Virginia, and 180 farmers have encouraged the Obama administration to restore critical protections to our waterways.
“Loopholes in the Clean Water Act have left the drinking water for 2.36 million Virginians at risk of dangerous pollution,” Bucci said. “This report pulls together the best science available on how our smaller lakes, streams and wetlands are connected to iconic waterways across the country. We look forward to fully reviewing the report and the rule and hope that they move us forward in protecting all of America’s waterways.”
EPA will now hold a 45 day public comment period for review of the report to ensure the best possible peer review of the document. The scientist panel is expected to reassemble in December to hear further comment and incorporate any necessary changes to the report’s findings. EPA is expected to send a rule to the Office of Management and Budget for review before a rule is formally proposed and released to the public for comment.