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Opponents: Clean Water Act rollback could affect drinking-water supplies


Big Sky Connection


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Eric Tegethoff


April 12, 2019

HELENA, Montana - Monday is the deadline for public comment on a change to the Clean Water Act that opponents say could threaten drinking-water supplies. 

The Environmental Protect Agency's proposal would limit the law's protections to major waterways and their tributaries. Dave Chadwick, executive director of the Montana Wildlife Federation, says that would accelerate development in sensitive areas. 

Protections could be removed from headwaters and ephemeral streams, which don't run year-round but are important in dry parts of the West. And Chadwick notes, like other arid states, Montana depends on the availability of clean water for people, fish and wildlife.

"Our water supplies are pretty crucial and they're pretty sensitive, and development in headwater areas and development in low-lying wetland areas really has an impact on the availability of water downstream," says Chadwick.

Chadwick says that could affect Montana's outdoor recreation economy and world-class fishing. 

In support of the change, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler says it will provide "states and landowners the certainty they need to manage their natural resources and grow local economies."

Jan Goldman-Carter, senior director for Wetlands and Water Resources with the National Wildlife Federation, says the new rule could remove protections for as much as half of wetland acres and many streams. She believes that would undermine the Clean Water Act altogether, and represents a rejection of the underlying science for these areas.

"This administration made a decision to ignore the basic 8th-grade science that water flows downhill and, if you don't control pollutants upstream in a watershed, you will have a lot of pollution downstream," says Goldman-Carter.

The public can comment on changes to the "Waters of the U-S" proposal at ''




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