The Clean Water Act Through the Generations: Baby Boomers Generation, Pt. 3

How has the Clean Water Act impacted your life? For those of us who were born before the Clean Water Act was passed into law in 1972, we interpret this law through the eyes of the Baby Boomers Generation.

Colorado River, Grand Canyon, AZ

Bob Irvin at the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, AZ

Growing up, I spent nearly every summer at my grandparents’ small farm in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. 

My mother grew up on the same farm.  When she was a girl, Acup Creek, the small mountain creek that runs through the farm and is a tributary of the Kentucky River, was filled with crayfish and minnows and was an aquatic playground for Mom and her siblings and cousins. 

By the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, when I was a kid, Acup Creek was nearly dead, polluted by acid mine drainage from surrounding coal mines as well as raw sewage from inadequate sanitation facilities for the homes along the creek.  I remember feeling cheated that, because of this pollution, I couldn’t play in the creek as Mom had done.

With the advent of the Clean Water Act in 1972 and other federal environmental laws, Acup Creek began to be cleaned up.  The coal mines could no longer simply allow their toxic waste to flow into the creek. Modern water supply and sewer lines were installed in the area.   

As a result, Acup Creek is again alive with fish and other aquatic creatures.  And while no one in my family lives on the farm today, a part of me will always be there.  Consequently, it gives me great satisfaction to know that, as a result of the commitment we made as a nation 40 years ago to make our rivers and streams fishable and swimmable again, Acup Creek and rivers and streams across the country have been restored to health.  

Moreover, if our parents and grandparents were wise enough to join in this commitment, surely we can be just as wise in maintaining and strengthening the commitment to clean, healthy rivers for generations to come.