MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Trump Administration is changing former President Barack Obama’s “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule that had placed limits on polluting chemicals that could be used near streams, wetlands and other bodies of water.
According to a New York Times article, the Obama administration implemented the rule in response to a Supreme Court decision that opened the door to a more expansive legal definition of “Waters of the United States” under the 1972 Clean Water Act.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is looking to reduce the amount of U.S. waterways that get federal protection under the Clean Water Act.
On January 23, 2020, the EPA and the Department of the Army (Army) finalized the Navigable Waters Protection Rule to define “Waters of the United States” and established federal regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act.
According to the EPA, “For the first time, the agencies are streamlining the definition so that it includes four simple categories of jurisdictional waters, provides clear exclusions for many water features that traditionally have not been regulated and defines terms in the regulatory text that have never been defined before.”
This new rule is heavily supported by farmers, however, some scientists are concerned about whether this will lead to polluted drinking water. Would this revised rule have a significant impact in West Virginia?
Dr. Ziemkiewicz is the director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute, 12 News got the opportunity to sit down with him and discuss the new change, his opinion and what it means for West Virginia water.
Here is what he had to say:
Q: Would you be able to explain why the Trump Administration would be changing the Clean Water Rule?
Q: Would this have a negative impact in West Virginia or any impact at all?
Q: So it’s hard to tell whether it’ll impact West Virginia or not?
Q: There are speculations on whether this new rule could potentially pollute our drinking water, would you agree with that?
He mentioned that it’s important to focus on other water issues that are happening in the state. “One of the things that’s very important is that we only have so many resources to fix big problems when it comes to water, and we have big problems.”
According to Ziemkiewicz, the biggest problem West Virginia has, that isn’t being taken care of very well, is raw sewage getting into our streams.
He mentioned that on a localized basis there might be cases where the change might have an effect but in terms of the health of major waterways, drinking water and recreational opportunities, it’s not the biggest problem we have.
Overall, Dr. Ziemkiewicz believed that there won’t be a significant change in West Virginia because there haven’t been any major changes within the last five years.