Conservation groups in Indiana and around the nation are calling attention to the anniversary of the Clean Water Act, this Saturday. It's been 42 years since Congress voted to mandate clean water protections, and the Hoosier Environmental Council is among the groups backing an update proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to strengthen the law. Staff attorney Kim Ferraro says recent court rulings have made it unclear whether the Clean Water Act covers wetlands and smaller streams.
"We've got Lake Michigan right here that supplies drinking water to millions," says Ferraro. "There are numerous small tributaries and wetlands that provide buffers to pollution getting into the Great Lakes that were removed from the Clean Water Act."
The public comment period on the EPA proposal runs through mid-November. It's estimated more than 700,000 people have sent in a public comment supporting the provisions.
Opponents claim the proposal would have a negative impact on agriculture, but supporters say the provisions actually exempt agriculture and would protect farmers. Ferraro says any politics need to be put aside.
"Republicans and Democrats alike want clean water," says Ferraro. "We want to preserve water not only for our own survival but that of our children and for future generations."
According to the EPA, the proposal would restore protections to two million miles of smaller streams and millions of acres of wetlands and better protect drinking water supplies for more than one third of all Americans.