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Streams and Wetlands: Worth a Tweet

Melissa Waage

Posted March 25, 2013 in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment

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Photo by Vernman on flickr

Are America’s streams and wetlands worth a tweet? Tell the Obama administration they are by joining in a Twitter conversation this Thursday afternoon hosted by the Environmental Protection Agency. 

We know what we’ll be asking:

@EPAwater @whitehouse: Streams & wetlands need Clean Water Act protection. When will you finalize the headwaters guidance? #waterchat

And we’d like you to join us with your own tweets. That’s because right now, polluters are actually allowed to dump waste into many small streams and wetlands without fear of enforcement under the Clean Water Act. Because of confusion about which waterways are protected, government enforcement against oil spills, waste discharges, and wetlands destruction has often been impossible. This is a serious problem. EPA itself provides many examples of how this problem has kept them from cracking down on pollution.

For instance,

Crude oil was discharged into Edwards Creek, an intermittent stream near Talco, Texas (Titus County). Under existing guidance, EPA did not attempt to pursue enforcement of this violation because it was too complex to prove the water was protected under the Clean Water Act. No clean up was required under the Clean Water Act. More than 50 percent of residents in Titus County get their drinking water from sources dependent on these kinds of creeks.”

Oil in Edwards Creek, TX. Photo: EPA.

This is an untenable situation. We can't have healthy lakes and rivers without protecting the small streams that feed them.  These streams provide drinking water for 117 million Americans, so it's vital to protect them from pollution and destruction.  These waters filter pollutants, protect against flooding, and serve as habitat for fish and wildlife.

It all started when the Bush administration and the U.S. Supreme Court created confusion over clean water protections for these small but very important waterways. Thanks to this they’re still in a sort of legal limbo. The Obama administration has the power to reaffirm Clean Water Act protections for these waters. It just needs to stand up to polluters and act.

The Obama EPA has already drafted an updated policy, its draft headwaters guidance, that closes this Bush-era loophole—but the White House is holding up the final guidance. Meanwhile, EPA is taking fire from polluting industries and their allies in Congress for simply considering any clarification of which waterways are protected under the law. That’s why they need to hear again and again that the public supports this move.

EPA water chief Nancy Stoner will be taking questions from the twittersphere @EPAwater this Thursday at 2 pm.  Join us in asking her:

@EPAwater @whitehouse: Streams & wetlands need Clean Water Act protection. When will you finalize the headwaters guidance? #waterchat

Until then, you can help secure the future of our water by taking action now and urging the Obama Administration to finalize its guidance that will ensure Clean Water Act protection for headwater streams and wetlands.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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