Today, our nation’s most critical law for safeguarding our waters for swimming, fishing, and drinking — the Clean Water Act — turns 40 years old.
Congress passed the Clean Water Act with the goal of ending the use of our nation’s waters for discharge of pollutants by 1985. Clearly, we have missed that goal by a long shot, though we have made great progress in cleaning up our waterways for swimming, fishing, and drinking water. Still, industrial pollution, toxic dumping, sewage overflows, extreme energy extraction, and many more problems continue to threaten the waters on which our families and communities rely.
We must call upon our elected officials to renew our nation’s commitment to the goal of ending the use of our nation’s waters for the discharge of pollutants, and to work to make all our waters swimmable, fishable, and drinkable. These fundamental goals of the Clean Water Act should have overwhelming bipartisan support, as the act’s initial passage had, because they are crucial to public health, well-being, and local economies all across the nation.
Now, as we reflect on 40 years of Clean Water Act protections, our leaders must work to improve and clean our waters further, not go back to those toxic days of unfettered industrial dumping, when our rivers caught on fire, our lakes were declared dead, and families were warned not to eat the fish from their local waterways.