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September 29, 2014
EPA Administrator at WEFTEC: Healthy waters make economic sense
By Amanda Czepiel, JD, Senior Managing Editor

At this year’s Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC) in New Orleans, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy started off with a bit of humor, joking that she was pleased that that EPA could be at this year’s event, since the agency “isn’t on furlough”. Jokes aside, Administrator McCarthy’s message to the WEFTEC audience was clear: “healthy waters do not stifle our economy; it grows it, it supports it.”

Gina McCarthy

In her keynote address at the “Great Water Cities: Paths to Livability, Prosperity, and Resilience”, McCarthy began her discussion on the importance of water protection rules with a focus on the recent drinking water problems in Toledo, Ohio, during which city residents lacked access to clean water for days. She explained although it seemed shocking at the time, in fact, “it wasn’t a surprise event” and that across the country, we know that “our challenges are large and that our resources are small.”

This discussion of Toledo introduced the thrust of McCarthy’s message: EPA and the Corps’ proposed rule, and its importance to new challenges of nutrient pollution, healthy waters, and increasing temperatures. McCarthy described that the rule resulted from two very confusing Supreme Court decisions that have caused, in EPA’s opinion, lack of protection for many of the nation’s waters and wetlands.

McCarthy pointed out the controversy and confusion surrounding the proposed rule, and is attempting to clarify what the rule will and will not do, stating, “Basically, let me comfort you. You can keep your puddles and you can keep your fireworks, but we are going to protect these waters.” The WEFTEC crowd responded to this statement enthusiastically with a round of applause. McCarthy called on the audience to educate people on what the rule does and does not do, asserting that “everyone needs to step up and understand the risks and the opportunities with water protection.”

The EPA has a big presence at this year’s WEFTEC, and it is expected the goal of attending EPA officials is to garner support for proposed water rule.

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