Comment: The Clean Water Act: A legacy worth saving

In 1972 I was 13 years old and becoming much more cognizant of the fact that the Earth I had lived on up to that point was changing and not for the better. And this disturbed and concerned me greatly even at that young age as I felt a special connection to the environment as I still do. It is innate in me and as much a part of my existence as breathing. The trees, the air and especially the water at that time all told a story to me about who I was, where I came from and where I hoped to go as I became an adult. From the time I was a young girl my mother instilled in me respect for the Earth and taught me that what you put into her you get out. Unfortunately, I lost my mother to cancer at the age of 17 not nearly having the amount of time with her that I needed but the lessons she taught me about life, respecting others and respecting this planet in that short time have always stayed with me.

And at that time in history, those lessons were more important than ever to be learned. Just three years prior in July of 1969, the Cuyahoga River in Ohio became so contaminated with industrial waste and pollution that it literally caught on fire. Rivers from the Hudson to the Potomac to the Mississippi were little more than open sewers with untreated waste and industrial byproducts being dumped with little regulation. Public health alerts and fishkills were commonplace. Rivers burning, pictures of raw sewerage flowing in rivers, oil fires and fish floating dead in rivers was more than enough for the public to demand action and accountability for what had been done to our waterways by an out of control corporate assault for profit. Of course, the polluters fought against any type of regulation of their crimes against nature citing as usual that it would be financially cumbersome to act responsibly. But on October 18, 1972, the voices of the people were heard with the passage of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, commonly known as the Clean Water Act. The main goal of this act was to ensure to "restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of our nation's waterways" and to make them cleaner by 1985. Other provisions were subsequently added to assure that once these goals were met that they would be adequately maintained.

Almost forty years after its passage there is much to be proud of regarding this act. It has been a success. Billions have been saved in dollars and in destruction and pollution to our waterways. More than one billion pounds per year of toxic pollutants have been removed from waterways. Point source pollution has been greatly reduced and the Cuyahoga is cleaner and actually making a profit. Of course, there are still great obstacles as we see this same irresponsible corporate mentality seeking to turn back the clock, but on the whole the Clean Water Act has been the one piece of legislation that has withstood the test of time... until now. The lifeblood of our country is now once again under attack by those in our Congress more beholding to the corporate entities that support them than the people they should be supporting.

A bill, H.R. 2018 also known as the "Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011," would null and void decades of progress that have made our waterways cleaner and safer. The bill supported both by Rep Nick Rahall and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia(coal country) seeks to undo two key provisions of the Clean Water Act that would undermine the EPA's ability to hold states accountable for water quality standards. In other words, corporate entities (coal companies) holding sway over state governments would be the final arbiter on water standards even if evidence proves that doing so would be a threat to human and aquatic health. Again, even if evidence proves that doing so would be a threat to human and aquatic health. How unconscienable. How irresponsible. How morally bereft.

To see this total apathy towards the source of all life and the disrespect for all who have sacrificed so much to ensure a cleaner planet is reprehensible. And I admit that now forty years after I first learned of the Clean Water Act passing at the age of 13 after being scared for the future I am again and this time moreso as this important issue has not gotten the media coverage now that it did then. This is why the Internet and social media are so crucial in getting this type of information out to the public. Our media has been co opted by these same corporate entities seeking to escape culpability for their crimes against nature just to save a buck even at the expense of our health and that of our children.

So are you incensed yet? Do you want to do someting to let them know that you will not go back to rivers in flames and rivers and streams from coast to coast flowing with industrial and human waste, coal excrement, nuclear waste and anything else those who buy policy in DC deem too expensive to take responsibility for? We need the same loud voices that we heard in the 1970s. We need that urgency. We need that caring. Those voices, the voices of our young selves that stood in the streets crying for environmental justice must now be heard again. Those who perceive themselves as masters of our fate must be sent a message that it is we who are the masters of our fate. Our children deserve better than that. They deserve clean water! Please , speak out for our rivers. Our lifeblood. The soul of America. Remember Cuyahoga and say, never again!

Benefits Of The Clean Water Act

My musical inspiration at 13.