More than half U.S. waters too polluted to swim or fish

Peter Carr/The Journal-News

Back in 1972, U.S. legislators passed the Clean Water Act with a 10-year goal: Make it safe for people to fish and swim in the nation’s waters. Fifty years later, around half of all lakes and rivers across the country that have been studied fail to meet that standard, according to a recent report by the Environmental Integrity Project, a D.C. watchdog and advocacy nonprofit. Instead, they’re classified as “impaired” — meaning that their fish are inedible, their water undrinkable, they’re unsafe for humans to swim in and inhospitable to aquatic life.

The Clean Water Act delivered a major win — it laid the groundwork for essential enforcement on industry — but there were key failures. Most notably, legal loopholes continue to allow fertilizer runoff from farmland and manure runoff from factory farms. The pollutants, which are washed into watersheds, are considered the top cause of water pollution in the U.S., said Eric Shaeffer, executive director at the Environmental Integrity Project. The law’s inability to regulate this is its single biggest program failure, said Shaeffer. “The Clean Water Act doesn’t have effective regulation for dealing with cropland.” And powerful industrial groups continue to resist and delay implementation of further regulation…

The Environmental Integrity Project analyzed water data gathered from states through the Environmental Protection Agency. That’s where that headline up top comes from. Lots more numeric conclusions in the article. The one that makes me feel like I’m beating my head against a steel wall coated with used motor oil tells us … 700 years is the time it would take to achieve full restoration of currently impaired waterbodies under current pace of remediation.

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