CA M PA I G N U P DAT E
NRDC Fights for Clean Drinking Water From Source to Tap T
The truth is, America is facing a nationwide drinking water crisis that goes well beyond lead contamination in Flint. by water systems reporting violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act in 2015. And that was before President Trump took office. If aging water infrastructure and lax enforcement of the law were already threatening the public’s right to safe drinking water, the Trump Administration’s
sweeping attack on our clean water protections — arguably the most wide-ranging assault of its kind in modern history — could upend that right entirely. Since helping to write the Clean Water Act nearly a half century ago, NRDC has fought in and out of court to make sure our government delivers on its promise of clean water for all Americans. Today, that means countering the egregious threats posed by the Trump Administration and championing the safety of our drinking water from source to tap like never before.
Despite affirming the importance of preserving “crystal-clear water” soon after his election, President Trump didn’t wait long to kick off a process for repealing the Clean Water Rule. Enacted under the Obama Administration with strong NRDC support, the rule protects streams, wetlands and other upstream sources of drinking water for no fewer than 117 million Americans. Trump’s move was hailed by corporate polluters who have long sought to weaken and rescind the country’s bedrock clean water protections, and Trump’s pro-industry pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, promised to go “full speed ahead” to undo the Clean Water Rule. But Pruitt may not find that so easy. Polls show the rule enjoys overwhelming public support, and NRDC has vowed to fight the Trump Administration’s attempt to overturn it every step of the way, including in federal court if necessary. “There’s no way we’re going to let this administration put at risk the sources of drinking water for one out of every three Americans without giving them the fight of their lives,” says Jon Devine, a senior attorney with NRDC’s Water program. As evidenced by NRDC’s Threats on Tap, the United States was already falling far short of delivering safe drinking water for all before Trump’s election. In 2015, some 27 million Americans were served by drinking water systems with potentially serious health-based violations of the law, such as contamination with toxic industrial chemicals, dangerous bacteria or heavy metals. Yet overall, repercussions for violations were virtually nonexistent. Only 1 in 10 violations was subject to any kind of formal enforcement action, and even fewer — just 3.3 percent — faced financial penalties.
The draconian budget cuts President Trump wants to impose on the EPA are poised to make this already-woeful situation dramatically worse. Trump has proposed slashing more than $600 million from clean water programs at the EPA, in addition to imposing crippling cuts on the agency’s civil and criminal enforcement budget, leaving our “environmental police” virtually penniless to do their job of holding polluters accountable. What’s more, Trump would eliminate programs to restore the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound as well as zero out the federal program designed to help oftenstruggling water systems in rural communities deliver clean drinking water. NRDC is mounting an aggressive campaign on Capitol Hill aimed at building pressure on key lawmakers to oppose Trump’s dangerous cuts.
President Trump’s budget would zero out funding for restoring the Chesapeake Bay and other treasured waterways.
“As the crisis in Flint made abundantly clear, we need to be strengthening our clean water protections, not gutting them,” says Angela Guyadeen, deputy director of NRDC’s Safe Water Initiative. Indeed, the stunning fact that Flint recorded no violations of federal law for lead contamination of drinking water in the run-up [Continued on next page.]
SUNRISE © JON BILOUS/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO; SIGN © BILL PUGLIANO/GETTY IMAGES
urning on the kitchen faucet and getting clean water. Most of us take this simple act for granted. Ever since Congress passed the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972, followed two years later by the Safe Drinking Water Act, countless Americans have come of age without ever having to think twice about access to clean, healthy, safe drinking water. Then came the crisis in Flint, Michigan. In an outrageous betrayal of the public trust, tens of thousands of residents learned not only that the water coming out of their faucets was contaminated with dangerous levels of toxic lead, but that the government officials responsible for protecting the safety of their water supply had failed them on every level. Now, a bombshell NRDC report confirms that the residents of Flint are by no means alone. “The truth is, America is facing a nationwide drinking water crisis that goes well beyond lead contamination in Flint,” says Erik Olson, director of NRDC’s Health program and coauthor of the recent report Threats on Tap, which found that roughly a quarter of the U.S. population — a staggering 77 million Americans — was served