Clean Water Act Milestone Celebrated

Clean Water Act Milestone Celebrated

OCEAN CITY – Clean water advocates came out to Turville Creek last Thursday to take in the local waterways on Clean Water Day.

“We are going to enjoy a paddle on Turville Creek … appreciate what we have and appreciate what we need to protect,” Assateague Coastal Trust (ACT) Executive Director and Coastkeeper Kathy Phillips said.

According to Phillips, World Water Day is held annually to raise awareness about increasing world pollution and the need for clean water.

The Clean Water Act (CWA) was originally known as the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and was enacted in 1948. It was then reorganized and expanded in 1972. The CWA establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters and regulating quality standards for surface waters.

“2012 is the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act,” Phillips said. “It is the cornerstone of cleaning up America’s water ways and our drinking sources.”

Phillips explained that the CWA is also the foundation of the Waterkeeper Alliance and the work of 120 U.S water programs including 18 Riverkeeper, Shorekeeper, and Coastkeeper programs in the coastal and Chesapeake Bay watershed.

“The Chesapeake Waterkeepers have used the Clean Water Act in the past to help strengthen policy within MDE [Maryland Department of Environment] and the State on our oversight of the national pollutant discharge,” she said.

Phillips shared a few interesting facts on the importance of keeping water clean. The water drank today is the same water the dinosaurs drank. There is no new water. Thirty percent of the food produced worldwide is never eaten and the water used to produce it is lost. Twenty percent of freshwater fish species have been pushed to the edge of extinction from contaminated water. Half of the world’s 500 major rivers are seriously depleted or polluted.

There are a few threats that Phillips took last week’s anniversary to address.

“I wanted to bring to your attention … a few threats that are going on to clean water here locally and throughout the country,” Phillips said.

Congressman Bob Goodlatte has introduced House Resolution 4153, which will limit the EPA’s capabilities and deplete funding used to protect waterways.

Phillips said the EPA is about to cut the Beach Act from its budget due to the threat of the resolution. The Beach Act is funded through the federal government down to the counties to monitor swimming water.

In Worcester County’s case, the ocean beaches of Ocean City and Assateague Island are monitored through the Beach Act to ensure the water is swimmer friendly. If the resolution is passed, the funding provided for the Beach Act will become the county’s responsibility, if at all.

Despite these threats, and others, Phillips was upbeat about the local water quality scene last Thursday.

“The good news is here and now we have much to celebrate about clean water,” Phillips said. “The Chesapeake Bay and the coastal bays sustain a huge economic engine through tourism, recreational and commercial fishing, boating, and water front development, and without clean water millions of jobs that support these industries’ will vanish.”