WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a new interpretation of the Clean Water Act on Monday that fails to protect against pollution that passes through groundwater before reaching our waterways. Bart Johnsen-Harris, clean water advocate for Environment America, issued the following statement:
“The EPA is grossly misinterpreting the Clean Water Act and putting our waters at risk by opening loopholes for pollution.
“This change would leave the public vulnerable to toxic pollution, as our current lawsuit in Massachusetts demonstrates. The suit alleges that releases of toxic pollutants from a landfill have contaminated neighboring waters. Based on long-standing policies, this is a violation of the Clean Water Act, since the landfill is discharging pollutants into the surrounding wetlands. However, because the pollution flows through groundwater before reaching the wetlands, the EPA is now arguing that this type of pollution should be legal. This is a complete reversal of the agency’s previous position. It’s a 180-degree turn that is reckless, irrational, and legally dubious.
“The agency is drawing distinctions that are as absurd as they are dangerous. According to the EPA’s new interpretation, harmful levels of pollution in a river become acceptable if the polluter started by pumping those toxins into the ground. Toxic coal waste is fine to have in our lakes, so long as it seeped into the soil first. This completely backwards logic opens up our waters and our families to tremendous health risks.
“Monday’s announcement coincided with the end of the Dirty Water Rule comment period—EPA’s proposal to strip federal protections from half our nation’s wetlands and vast networks of streams. The EPA needs to abandon this destructive path and get back to protecting our rivers, our lakes, and our health.”