Currently, under the Clean Water Act, all the waters that are defined as “Waters of the United States” are federally protected against pollution under strict standards that are meant to protect drinking water, wildlife, recreation and many other uses.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corp of Engineers have recently published for public comment, a proposed rule to "redefine the scope" of Waters of the United States (WOTUS) federally regulated under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Here is a link to information about the proposal on the EPA website. And here is a link to a PDF that outlines the proposed changes.
If this definition change is finalized, untreated pollution can be discharged into waters across the United States without meeting any of the Clean Water Act’s permitting and treatment standards.
According to an article on the National Public Radio website, if this proposed rule passes,"Vast amounts of wetlands and thousands of miles of U.S. waterways would no longer be federally protected by the Clean Water Act."
You can make a difference now by submitting a comment to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers by April 15! You can send a message to the EPA and ACE via Riverkeeper's Action Alert mechanism here. Please send us a copy of your comments so we can post them on our website and be sure to share this information with others and encourage them to send public comments.
Here is a link to Waterkeeper Alliance blog post
Here is a link to Riverkeeper's blog post about the issue
Here is a link to the NPR article mentioned above
Here is a good article from the online journal, The Intercept, that summarizes some of the potential impacts of the proposed changes
Image Credit: Greg Shine / Bureau of Land Management