Time to push back on Trump’s attack on clean water. Think of our children. | OpinionNovember 5, 2019
Ensuring the safety of our clean water supply has been one of the most important public health achievements in America’s history. But unbelievably, over the last two years, the Trump administration has worked to erode nearly half a century’s worth of progress with a swift and near-constant assault on the Clean Water Act. Their repeal of a 2015 rule shows that their interests favor polluters, not Floridians who rely on a clean drinking water supply.
As a health care professional in Florida, who works daily to ensure the health of kids and families, I am alarmed to see the federal government recklessly put sources of clean water and the wellbeing of our state at great risk. With October being Children’s Health Month, this is an especially noteworthy time to call out this attack on our kids’ health.
The rollback of the 2015 Clean Water Rule means fewer safeguards for thousands of miles of streams, rivers, and waterways that provide water to support countless everyday activities in our state. This rule strengthened the existing Clean Water Act to ensure more bodies of water would be covered by safeguards meant to defend against contamination. It protected roughly one in three Americans’ drinking water from bacteria, chemicals, and parasites that result from discharge, agricultural runoff, and biological waste. The rule shielded Florida’s communities. But in repealing the rule, the EPA will leave millions of people vulnerable to a greater health risks from exposure to harmful pollution.
We see the correlation between positive health outcomes and a safe environment through our work with kids and families across Florida. Reliable access to clean water is essential for communities to flourish and grow stronger. This is especially true for younger Floridians whose development depends on clean drinking water in their homes and schools and safe water, free of dangerous toxins, in the outdoor spaces where they play and explore.
Public health officials have long raised awareness about the strong link between good health and a clean environment. The aftermath of the horrific Cuyahoga River fire in 1969 sparked a national outcry, leading to the original passage of the Clean Water Act. People demanded their elected leaders do significantly more to curb the pollution in our water that can bring about infection, illnesses, and even death, and their leaders listened.
Exposure to contaminated water can produce serious health issues. Health experts warn against the dangers of lead in our kids’ drinking water that can result in IQ loss, developmental delays, and behavioral problems. Parents in Flint, Michigan are still contending with how contaminated water has impacted their children, and the communities there still lack adequate clean water supplies. Further rollbacks of the Clean Water Act will only increase the likelihood that Floridian families will experience the damaging effects of polluted water in the near future.
By weakening the Clean Water Act, the Trump administration is eliminating protections for people to make it easier for polluters to dump chemicals in America’s waters. The Clean Water Act has been critical to protecting drinking water sources for Floridians and these public health laws must not be stripped away. It is our children, low-income residents, and communities of color that feel these impacts the most.