DES MOINES, Iowa – Time is running out for public comments on a federal proposal to lift pollution controls on certain smaller streams and bodies of water, including thousands of miles of Iowa waterways
The Environmental Protection Agency is suggesting that Clean Water Act protection should no longer apply to small streams and pools that are seasonal, intermittent or not connected on the surface to a larger body of water.
Scott Edwards, co-director of the Food and Water Justice project with the group Food and Water Watch, says these changes would allow large-scale pollution and damage critical ecosystems.
“And what this rule does, as many other Trump-era rules have done, is take science out of the equation and try to create these rules that are really just designed to allow more development and less protection of our waterways,” Edwards warns.
People have until Apr. 15 to comment online at Regulations.gov, about the proposed changes to the Waters of the United States rule (WOTUS).
The EPA has argued that lifting the regulations would provide more certainty for farmers, ranchers and land developers.
According to the Center for Rural Affairs, Iowa’s current water quality already threatens public health and outdoor recreation with excessive nitrate, phosphorus, bacteria, sediment and other pollutants in surface waters.
The group cites some improvements since Iowa created the Nutrient Reduction Strategy five years ago and implemented its Water Quality Initiative, but says water quality continues to decline.
Edwards notes that protecting waterways is important, because that’s where most people get their drinking water.
“All of these permitting studies, environmental impact assessments that are required before you do any of these things, is a critical part of the protection,” he stresses. “And keeping these waterways clean is critical. We do not live without clean waterways.”
Equally urgent to many Iowans right now, the National Ground Water Association estimates that people living in more than 300 counties across 10 states – including Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota – face threats to their groundwater from bacterial and industrial contamination carried by recent flood waters.