Center for Food Safety's Statement on EPA's Repeal of the Waters of the US Rule
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the repeal of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule yesterday at a National Association of Manufacturers event. Approved during the Obama administration, the rule expanded the types of waterways that could receive federal protections under the Clean Water Act.
WOTUS protected vital wetlands and streams from pesticides, fertilizers, mine waste, and other pollutants. This repeal ends federal protection for half of the nation's wetlands and 15% percent of all streams. Many public health and environmental problems stand to worsen as a result of its repeal.
By repealing WOTUS, Wheeler's EPA is risking the public's access to clean drinking water. WOTUS protected waterways from pollution across the country to ensure access to clean drinking water. Without these protections in place, industry is permitted to expand dumping of harmful contaminants into waterways with little regard for how they will end up in our taps.
The repeal of WOTUS will not only enable factory farms to dump fertilizers and pesticides, but also allows these agricultural giants to dump manure complete with its accompanying hormones and antibiotics. The increase in nutrient pollution puts more waterways at risk of hypoxia, or the creation of dead zones, which endangers wildlife.
This decision also increases the chances of foodborne illness outbreaks. Even before this repeal, the US had serious food safety problems caused by contaminated water, including making leafy greens like romaine lettuce at high risk for foodborne illness leading to several outbreaks in the last few years. The inevitable influx of manure and agricultural run-off that will result from this repeal stands to worsen the likelihood of foodborne illness outbreaks as well as the rate of antibiotic resistance.
EPA's repeal of WOTUS endangers clean water access, creates great environmental harm, and worsens existing food safety issues across the country.