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Strategy worked to save Chesapeake Bay, so give Floridians right to clean water | Opinion

NewsStrategy worked to save Chesapeake Bay, so give Floridians right to clean water | Opinion

Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972.  Congress subsequently voted to override a veto by President Richard Nixon and it became law. 

The purpose was to provide a guarantee that all Americans would have access to clean and healthy waters throughout America.

History has proven that legislation wasn’t always enough to afford these protections to our waterways. There have been numerous cases where our waters were so polluted to be dangerous and unusable for the usual purposes of recreation, swimming and fishing.

Many times it became necessary for lawsuits to be filed against those creating the sources of pollution and the degradation of the waters involved. 

I served as chairman of the board of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It became clear at that time that after decades of broken promises by the six states and the District of Columbia bordering on the Chesapeake that we weren’t going to save the bay at the rate we were going.

The water retention pond adjacent to the Walmart Supercenter in Fruitland, Maryland, is getting a high-tech retrofit designed to combat Chesapeake Bay pollution. The pond is shown Nov. 19, 2019, prior to the technology's installation.

The only alternative left to save the bay was to file suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to require the states in question to meet their obligations under the Clean Water Act to restore the waters of the Chesapeake to meet the Clean Water Standards.

The suit was filed and a settlement was reached in 2010 with EPA and the six states on the bay. Shortly after that we were sued by various agricultural interests primarily in the mid-West who opposed the agreement we had reached.

The suit was defended successfully at both the District and the Court of Appeals levels. U.S. The Supreme Court refused to hear appeals, indicating the lower court rulings would stand as the law of the land.

In Florida a similar situation exists. For decades we have watched as our lakes, springs, rivers and bays have become degraded to the point they are now listed as impaired waters. In many cases the fisheries, sea grasses and a record number of mammals (manatees) have died off along with oysters, clams and numerous species of the benthic creatures.

The common thread causing these deaths is always too much pollution from failing septic systems, broken sewers, failing sewerage treatment systems, untreated stormwater runoff from urban and sub-urban settings, including agriculture.

The guarantee needed here is that clean water protection needs to be included in the state constitution of Florida.  Hence, the need for the Right To Clean Water Amendment. This will prohibit the pollution of Florida’s waters by recognizing a right to clean water for all Floridians and Florida waters.

This amendment will provide among other things:

  • Every Floridian has a right to clean water.
  • “Clean Water” shall mean waters free of the non-natural presence of any one or more substances, contaminants, or pollutants in quantities which are or may be potentially harmful or injurious to human health or welfare, animals, fish, plant life, water quality or which may unreasonably interfere with the environment or life or property, including outdoor recreation.
Wayne Mills

Interestingly only three states have these protections in their constitutions to date, Pennsylvania, Montana and New York,  but several more are attempting to add them.

Most recently the EPA notified Shawn Hamilton, Florida secretary of environmental protection, that Florida needed new and revised water quality standards to meet the provision of the U.S. Clean Water Act.

I encourage all those who care to have Florida’s environment protected and restored to visit floridspanrighttoclespannwspanter.org and to learn more about this proposed amendment. There you can sign their petition to show your support to put these protections in the constitution of Florida.

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