Defending our Water- Resounding Public Comments Delivered to EPA

This week, Clean Water Network and the Environment America clean water team submitted 21,977 comments to the EPA in opposition to the proposed repeal of the Clean Water Rule, the culmination of a six-month open comment period the EPA conducted as part of its new rule-making process.

The results of the open comment period show the significant public support that continues to exist for clean water. People across the country want clean water that’s drinkable, fishable, and swimmable. That’s why, in addition to Environment America’s 21,000 comments, over 500,000 more comments were submitted in opposition to repeal. That’s also why 800,000 people across the country submitted public comments in favor of the Clean Water Rule when it was first passed.

Unfortunately, the proposed repeal of the Clean Water Rule will likely keep moving forward as the EPA continues to push a more restrictive interpretation of the Clean Water Act that is far more forgiving to polluters. But there remains much work to do to protect our waterways, from stopping dangerous riders in budget bills to making sure that the next budget fully funds the EPA and all of its water programs.

Missouri Coalition for the Environment successfully sues polluter Worlds of Fun

We would like to congratulate our member, the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, for their successful lawsuit against the amusement park, Worlds of Fun.

Worlds of Fun repeatedly violated the Clean Water Act by discharging illegal levels of pollutants such as chlorine, copper, oil, grease, and total suspended solids into the Missouri River and its tributary, Shoal Creek. On March 9th, MCE’s lawsuit against Worlds of Fun was finally resolved in a court-approved settlement agreement.

Under the agreement, Worlds of Fun must develop and implement a Facility Compliance Plan to ensure the park will meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act, pay for MCE’s litigation costs and attorney fees, and spend $100,000 on supplemental environmental projects in the Shoal Creek watershed.

The funds will be split between two Missouri nonprofits, Stream Teams United and Bridging the Gap, Inc. Stream Teams United will create a Shoal Creek Stream Team to monitor water quality and conduct river cleanups, while Bridging the Gap will implement on-the-ground restoration projects to improve water quality within the watershed.

Congratulations to MCE for their monumental win in river cleanup and restoration!

Shenandoah Riverkeeper limits pollution of the Massanutten Sewage Treatment Plant

We’re writing to share the success of the Shenandoah Riverkeeper, one of our network members.

In the past, the undersized Massanutten Sewage Treatment Plant purchased nitrogen and phosphorous “credits” when it could not handle the volume of wastewater from a ski resort in Virginia. The credits allowed the plant to discharge excess nutrients to the Shenandoah River, which led to heavy algal growth at the top of the Shenandoah watershed. Algal blooms decrease oxygen content in water, leading to declines in aquatic life.

After prompting from the Shenandoah Riverkeeper, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality rewrote the treatment plant’s permit, giving the plant numeric limits for nutrient release, removing nutrient trading from the facility and accelerating the timeline for the owners to upgrade their plant and operations from four years to just one year.

Aerial photo of Massanutten STP by Alan Lehman

Congratulations to Shenandoah Riverkeeper for this important victory in keeping our waters clean!

If your organization/local watershed group is in a similar situation and would like to get in contact withShenandoah Riverkeeper, please contact Kimberly Williams, Coordinator of the CLEAN WATER NETWORK, at

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Western Reserve Land Conservancy doubles the size of the Hach-Otis Sanctuary

These days, it seems like all we hear about is how there are so many threats to our environment and not enough action to address them. To remind you that CLEAN WATER NETWORK members are making progress to protect their local watersheds all across the country, we’re sharing an impressive victory from the Western Reserve Land Conservancy!

On May 2nd, the Western Reserve Land Conservancy partnered with the Audubon Society of Greater Cleveland to acquire and preserve approximately 80.5 acres of land, which will be added to the Hach-Otis Sanctuary in Ohio. The land includes critical riparian and upland forest habitat along the river. It is now permanently preserved and free from threat of development and development-assisted runoff.

The Audobon Society has been working for over 30 years to expand the sanctuary, and the Land Conservancy began helping the effort in 2010. Additional partners include the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation’s Sustain Our Lakes Great Lakes program and the Clean Ohio Conservation Fund. There was also significant support from individual donors.

Congratulations to the Western Reserve Land Conservancy and its partners for their success!

Black River Warriorkeeper and others appealed to court to hold EPA accountable

We would like to share with you how one of our members, Black Warrior Riverkeeper, along with six other conservation groups, appealed to court in an effort to hold the EPA accountable in its duty to ensure that states are complying with clean water regulations.

In 2010, the same petitioners sent the EPA a list of issues regarding the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and its failure to meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act. Despite the strong argument made, their petition was ultimately denied by the EPA while the ADEM continued to neglect its duties of informing citizens about water quality and discharging locations, and regulating polluters.

We therefore thank Black Warrior Riverkeeper as well as Cahaba Riverkeeper,Choctawhatchee Riverkeeper, Friends of Hurricane Creek, Sierra Club Alabama Chapter,Friends of the Locust Fork River, and Alabama Rivers Alliance, represented by attorney David Ludder, for petitioning to hold the EPA accountable.

If your organization/local watershed group is in a similar situation and would like to get in contact withBlack Warrior Riverkeeper, please contact Kimberly Williams, Coordinator of the CLEAN WATER NETWORK, at

Supreme Court won’t pause Obama water rule case

The Supreme Court will not pause a case concerning the Obama administration’s Clean Water Rule in a rebuke to the Trump administration.

The justices’ decision came on Monday with no explanation.

The White House opposes the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers’ rule and asked the court to hold off on the case while the agencies formally consider repealing it.

The rule asserted federal power over small waterways such as streams and wetlands to protect them from pollution. It remains on hold after a federal appeals court in 2015 put a judicial stay on the measure while it is litigated.

The Supreme Court case, National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Defense, does not concern the merits of the highly controversial regulation.Instead, the industry groups opposed to the rule want the high court to overturn the Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit’s opinion that it has the primary jurisdiction over the case.

The 6th Circuit decision had consolidated cases filed in dozens of other federal circuit and district courts.

Supporters of the water rule, including environmental groups and some Democratic states, want the case to stay consolidated at the 6th Circuit. They also asked the Supreme Court not to delay its case.

President Trump formally asked the EPA and Army Corps to reconsider the rule, also known as Waters of the United States, in February, calling it “a horrible, horrible rule.”

The agencies kicked off the reconsideration process shortly after Trump signed an executive order.

The Supreme Court has asked litigants to submit their first briefs later this month. The justices have not scheduled oral arguments.


Trump signed WOTUS order

By Annie Snider and Jenny Hopkinson, POLITICO ProPresident Trump signed an executive order on February 28th, beginning the process of unwinding the Obama administration’s controversial Waters of the U.S. rule, according to an agricultural industry source.

Trump vowed during the campaign to eliminate “some of our most intrusive regulations, like the Waters of the U.S. rule,” as well as the climate rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector.

The water rule is aimed at ending the confusion sparked by two Supreme Court decisions about which streams and wetlands are protected under the Clean Water Act. The Obama administration estimated its rule would increase by 3 percent the number of marshes, bogs and creeks covered by the 1972 law, but farmers, homebuilders, oil and gas companies and other industry groups called it a massive land grab.

Trump’s EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, spoke to the American Farm Bureau Federation, which was one of the rule’s most vocal opponents, at 4:00PM on the 28th.

The executive order is unlikely to have an immediate effect, since a court put the rule on hold while legal challenges play out. Moreover, withdrawing the rule would require the agency to go through the formal rulemaking process, with a proposal, notice and comment period, and a final rule. Environmental groups and states that support the rule would almost certainly mount a fierce legal battle to defend it. The Supreme Court has also agreed to hear arguments over a related question.

To view online:

Scott Pruitt nominated and confirmed for position of Administrator of EPA

President Donald Trump nominated the Attorney General of Oklahoma, Scott Pruitt, as the new Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  He was confirmed by the Senate 52 to 46.

But Scott Pruitt is bad for our water.

Americans overwhelmingly support clean water. Scott Pruitt supports polluters. In November, Americans did not vote to rollback protections for clean water to make it easier for polluters to poison or destroy vital parts of our natural water infrastructure, like streams and wetlands. Yet that is exactly what they will get with a Scott Pruitt-led EPA.

If Donald Trump is serious about directing the EPA to ensure “clean, safe drinking water for all Americans,” then Scott Pruitt is the wrong choice for EPA administrator. He has spent his career suing EPA and several of those suits have attacked critical safeguards for water and the health of people who drink it.

Scott Pruitt put vast water resources, including the drinking water for more than 117 million Americans, at risk when he sued EPA to throw out the Clean Water Rule which protects sources of drinking water from pollution and destruction.

Nearly 45 years after the Clean Water Act was passed, many of our nation’s rivers, streams, lakes and bays are still not safe for swimming or fishing. We need to be doing more, not less, to rein in polluters like industrial agriculture, oil and gas operations, and mining. These industries should not get a free pass to cause real, direct harm to public health and the environment, while raking in huge profits. Unfortunately Scott Pruitt has been handing out free passes to the big polluters for years.

Scott Pruitt joined the Farm Bureau, the Fertilizer Institute, and other industrial agricultural interests to sue EPA to stop the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay. EPA’s oversight is essential to the health of the Bay and everyone who lives, works and plays in the region. Oklahoma is nowhere near the Chesapeake.

Pruitt has allowed the runoff from upstream chicken farms in Arkansas to pollute the Illinois River downstream in Oklahoma. Pruitt has let a lawsuit to force Arkansas to abide by Oklahoma’s standards and clean up the pollution to linger, with no action, since he took office as AG. His inaction has put the profits of out-of-state business over the health of his own state.

A new study by EPA confirms that every step of the fracking process – from water acquisition, to chemical use to disposal of contaminated waste – can impact drinking water. Pruitt’s well-documented and cozy relationship with the oil and gas industry signals that an EPA under his leadership will disregard the science and allow unchecked fracking to continue to put drinking water sources at risk.

Climate change is water change. As a climate science denier, Scott Pruitt is also a water science denier. If Pruitt has his way and rolls back EPA’s climate progress, he will be directly threatening drinking water supplies, the health of our waterways and every person, business and community that relies on clean water.

As the Oklahoma AG, Scott Pruitt stood idly by while his friends in the oil industry unleashed hundreds of earthquakes from fracking and wastewater disposal. As EPA Administrator it would be his job to step in and tell Big Oil to stop injecting waste if it threatens drinking water.  Can we count on him to shut down his oil friends when they pollute drinking water? His record in Oklahoma says no.

Get the Lead Out

On February 15th, 2017, our friends at Environment America launched a new campaign to “Get the Lead Out,” calling on all states to get lead out of drinking water in schools to protect kids’ health. You can read more about the issue in their new report below.

If you’re interested in this issue and would like to hear about campaigns in several states across the country to introduce legislation to tackle this problem, contact Kimberly at to be connected with Environment America’s clean water program team.

Get the Lead Out

Our children need safe drinking water — especially at school where they go to learn and play each day. Unfortunately, lead is contaminating drinking water at schools and pre-schools across the country. That’s why we’re working to Get the Lead Out.

Over the past two years, the tragedy of Flint, Michigan has stunned the nation. We watched the drinking water of an entire city become contaminated with lead. And now we know this toxic threat extends well beyond Flint to communities across the country. In fact, test results now show that lead is even contaminating drinking water in schools and pre-schools — flowing from thousands of fountains and faucets where our kids drink water every day.

Lead is highly toxic, especially for children. A potent neurotoxin, lead affects how our children learn, grow, and behave. According to the EPA,”In children, low levels of [lead] exposure have been linked to damage to the central and peripheral nervous system, learning disabilities, shorter stature, impaired hearing, and impaired formation and function of blood cells.” In fact, medical researchers estimate that more than 24 million children in America will lose IQ points due to low levels of lead.

Lead in the drinking water at school

Even the limited available data shows drinking water laced with lead at schools and early childhood programs across the country.

The threat of lead in schools’ water affects not only big cities but also suburban and rural communities. Tests have documented lead-tainted water in schools Cherry Hill, NJYarmouth, ME, and several other school districts in upstate New York, and suburban communities in Illinois.

Sometimes, the levels of lead are exceedingly high. For example, one drinking water fountain at a Montessori school in Cleveland had 1,560 parts per billion. A school in the Chicago suburbs had lead-water concentrations at 212 times the federal standard. Leicester Memorial Elementary in Massachusetts had a tap that tested at 22,400 ppb.

A pervasive threat to our children’s health

In all likelihood, these confirmed cases of lead in schools’ water are just the tip of the iceberg. Most schools have at least some lead in their pipes, plumbing, or fixtures. And where there is lead, there is risk of contamination.

Massachusetts is one of the few states to test extensively and publish all results showing any level of lead in schools’ water. The results are shocking: nearly half of the tests (49.7 percent) conducted at Bay State schools so far have found some level of lead in the water, according to data published by the state as of January 6, 2017.

Time to get the lead out.

Given these facts, the only way to ensure safe drinking water for our children is simply to “get the lead out” of our schools and pre-schools. This involves proactively removing lead-bearing parts from schools’ drinking water systems — from service lines to faucets and fixtures —and installing filters certified to remove lead at every tap used for drinking or cooking.

What you can do:

Contact your school and ask whether it has lead pipes or plumbing. Ask if the water has been tested for lead and to see all the results. Sometimes schools only report levels of lead in water above 15 parts per billion, but there is no safe level of lead in drinking water, especially for our children.

In addition, we’re calling on all states to “get the lead out” of schools drinking water. Please urge your governor to take strong action to protect our children’s health. Take action.

Washington, D.C. Fly In March 20th and 21st

With the election of Donald Trump as President, we know we’ll need to defend the Clean Water Act against attacks. Americans didn’t vote for more pollution in their water, no matter how they voted in the election. So we’ll need to come together to fight rollbacks to our bedrock clean water laws. We’ll need to hold a strong line of defense on everything from ensuring that infrastructure investments provide safe drinking water to preserving TMDL’s that keep nutrient pollution in check in order to keep our rivers, lakes, and streams protected.

Having seen first-hand how water pollution affects real people and their communities, Clean Water Network members are the best messengers to make the case for protecting our waterways. That’s why the Clean Water Network is hosting a Fly In event on March 20th and 21st of 2017 to bring members to DC to defend the Clean Water Act and prevent attacks against the policies that keep our waters clean.

Join meetings with decision makers at the federal level like EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers as well as reporters, policy experts or legal experts.  Sharpen your advocacy skills with briefings on the top threats to clean water and training from seasoned lobbyists. Strategize with other Clean Water Network members to take coordinated action to protect our local waterways.