Budget Woes – Clean Water At Risk

Okay, well clearly the debt ceiling debate is the capital “B” budget woe at this point. However, as the House continues to debate the budget for environmental programs, clean water is at-risk from stark funding cuts and a series of policy riders including efforts to allow mountaintop removal mining and pollution of small streams and wetlands.

Another misguided policy rider added on to this funding bill is an attempt to stop the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from working with communities to reduce polluted stormwater runoff that causes flooding, sewage overflows and public health problems.

I can remember being in downtown Atlanta years ago and distraught to watch someone wad up their lunch bag and throw it right down the storm drain, where it would be sent directly to the local creek and then the Chattahoochee River. And while some trash gets thrown directly into our rivers this way, much of it washes in from the land – much of the bags, paper and other debris volunteers collect as part of National River Cleanup starts out on roads and parking lots before it ends up clogging up our rivers. Even worse, for every piece of trash you can see, rain washes pollutants such as metals, toxics and bacteria from streets and other developed areas into streams and rivers where we swim and play – making the polluted runoff a leading and growing source of dirty water.

One of the smartest ways to reduce this pollution is to keep rain where it falls by using rain gardens, green roofs and permeable pavement (all referred to as green infrastructure) – preventing the polluted runoff in the first place. These techniques have caught on and are also proving cost effective – the City of Bremerton, WA estimates that using green infrastructure techniques to soak up water is ten times cheaper that using traditional infrastructure to reduce sewer overflows.

Which is why we support EPA’s efforts to promote these cost effective techniques to reduce this growing source of water pollution. Congressional attempts to delay this transparent process are nothing more than part of the continued assault on clean water.