House Members Speak Up for Clean Water, Safe Communities

Photo: Lori Andresen
Photo: Lori Andresen
Yesterday, Representatives Raul Grijalva (AZ), Rush Holt (NJ), Colleen Hanabusa (HI) and eleven other members of the House of Representatives wrote to the heads of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Army Corps of Engineers, and White House Council on Environmental Quality urging them to close two loopholes in the regulations implementing the Clean Water Act (read the press release and letter here).  These loopholes allow mining companies to discharge untreated—often toxic—industrial waste into the nation’s waters.

Not surprisingly, the Clean Water Act loopholes have harmed communities and wildlife that depend on the waters poisoned by mining pollution.  Last month, National Wildlife Federation (NWF) released a new report, Honoring the River: How Hardrock Mining Impacts Tribal Communities, which describes the particularly negative effects of mining pollution on the nation’s tribal communities.

What is surprising is how little attention has been paid to this issue.  According to EPA, mining is the number one source of toxic pollution in this country.  In Representative Grijalva’s home state of Arizona, there are more than 24,000 abandoned mine sites.  This is a huge problem that can be readily addressed with simple changes to agency regulations—yet the Administration has done nothing.

The truth is that mines are generally located in remote places and the communities most affected by them are often small, with little political and economic clout.  The dangerous waste disposal practices that are authorized by the Clean Water Act loopholes would never be tolerated if mines were located near Chicago or Boston. Unfortunately, “out of sight, out of mind.”

This is why NWF is so pleased to see a letter from members of Congress drawing attention to the two Clean Water Act loopholes.  As Representative Holt said in a press release,

“Too often mining companies are given sweetheart deals at the expense of local communities and the environment.  The Clean Water Act loopholes addressed in this letter can and should be fixed administratively.  Expedited action will help to ensure that low-income and native communities are protected from unsafe drinking water that has been tainted by toxic mining waste.”

Thank you Representatives Grijalva, Holt, Hanabusa, Conyers, Edwards, Hastings, Honda, Huffman, Lee, Pocan, Polis,  Schakowsky, Slaughter, and Tonko.

Tweet it! Thanks @RepRaulGrijalva for speaking up to protect our waters from toxic mine waste: @EPAgov @WhiteHouseCEQ @USACE_HQ

Take Action ButtonUrge the EPA and Army Corps to stop Big Mining from using our waters as industrial waste dumps.