This editorial originally appeared in the November 2019 issue of iWWD as "Value Proposition"
In mid-September, the U.S. EPA and U.S. Army repealed a 2015 rule defining Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) regulated under the Clean Water Act in a step toward creating a new definition.
This deregulation is just one of around 45 deregulations that have already been enacted during President Donald Trump’s administration, according to National Public Radio. It stands to reason that this one will have wide ranging affects not only for municipalities, but also for industrial water and wastewater users. I won’t claim to be an expert on the legal language involved in WOTUS, but what I can reference are numerous news articles about how it impacted the average citizen.
I particularly remember outcry about it in rural Illinois where I had been working as a newspaper reporter, specifically from the agricultural community. I wish I had paid more attention to the issue at the time (I was working on a different beat) because it would have served me well knowing some of those ground-level concerns now. But that concern was not localized to rural Illinois. In fact, 31 states and 53 non-state parties, including those representing mining farming, forestry and other interests, all pressed back on the rule, and at the time it was repealed, only 22 states were enforcing the 2015 WOTUS Rule, according to the Des Moines Register.
Finding a balance between protecting property rights and protecting our country’s waterways will always be a struggle, and one in which both sides likely will not win. Whether state or federal, I’m not sure legal language will be enough to curtail any improper wastewater discharge or potential pollution issues. The law allows for justice afterward, whereas education on how actions affect the environment and just how large a domino effect those actions can have can halt the issue before it happens. My upbringing and education encouraged me to be more mindful and careful about my interactions with the environment, and I’m sure many others reading this had a similar experience to that. Let’s not lose sight of those values.
If you have insights into how WOTUS or its repeal will affect your facility or operations, please get in touch with me by emailing [email protected].