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DECLINING WATER QUALITY
By Amitrajit Chatterjee

The Bush Administration besides being busy in bringing peace to a (so called) hostile nation has also worked very hard in contributing to declining water quality in USA.

Its apathy was quite evident recently when the news broke of water supply contamination by a chemical called Percholate, a rocket fuel additive used extensively by defense contractors and NASA. Pentagon records show almost 20 million people in 30 states, especially California is affected by this.1 Percholate levels were recently detected in lettuce and milk samples around the country. "This is likely the latest example of the Bush administration scheming with its industry friends behind closed doors to undermine safeguards for our children's health," said Natural Resources Defense Council Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) attorney Aaron Colangelo.2 On top of that, the administration and DOD also recently proposed legislation to exempt DOD and its industry contractors from legal responsibility to clean up percholate contamination.3

But this is nothing new. In May, 2001 Bush administration announced that EPA will suspend the January 2001 arsenic rule's right-to-know measures, which required water utilities to inform their consumers about arsenic levels in their water.4 Since George Bush took office, EPA officials have shown much more leniency in dealing with the shortcomings of the District of Columbia's Water and Sewer Authority's (WASA) efforts to protect Washington, D.C. residents from polluted drinking water. In spite of studies indicating significant lead contamination in almost two-thirds of tested district homes, the EPA opted not to levy fines against the city government or force WASA to clean up the pollution.5 This despite the fact that lead even at levels below federal specifications is known to major IQ deficiency in small children.

According to a U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG) report, between January 2002 and June 2003, more than 3,700 facilities across the U.S. violated their Clean Water Act permits for discharging pollutants into the nation's waters. Some facilities exceeded their permits repeatedly, and for multiple pollutants.6 But the Bush Administration instead of taking positive steps towards safeguarding public health, protecting waterways and reducing water pollution has consistently enacted policies, coupled with budget cuts to weaken both protections and enforcement under the Act. The proposed EPA funding for fiscal year 2005 slashes over $600 million from the agency's budget, reducing the agency's ability to monitor and enforce federal clean water laws. The proposed budget also reduces by 37% funds made available to states for improvement of wastewater treatment facilities.7 On top of that it's more shocking to know that EPA's lax attitude and negligent enforcement has resulted in non-payment of millions of dollars of penalties. 'Had the Bush administration strenuously enforced the law, EPA could have collected at least an additional $27 million in penalty revenue and supplemental environmental spending from some of the country's worst polluters during FY2001 and 2002.'8 But Bush's effort to undermine the CWA came under fire even from GOP opinion guru Frank Luntz, according to whose report 'undermining clean water safeguards is politically dangerous, and goes against the overwhelming sentiment of the American public'. 9

On March 5th, 2004 the EPA's Office of Inspector General dealt a stunning blow when it reported that EPA incorrectly reported meeting its drinking water goal under the Government Performance and Results Act (GRPA). 'The Agency reported meeting its Annual Performance goal for drinking water quality even though it concurrently reported that the data used to draw those conclusions were flawed and incomplete.'10 This is one more example of the government making up figures to mislead the public and present a false picture of their efficiency.

Through all this, it becomes clear that the primary objective of the Bush Administration is not the well being of the general public by providing them with clean drinking water or non-polluted waterways for swimming, fishing etc, but to augment the interests of his industry cohorts. Steps have to be taken to see that the administration does not succeed in its evil design. Only public outcry and activism will bring an end to this and give us hope for a better future with cleaner water.



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