In the polarized, venomous political climate that has become the new normalcy in America, it is nearly impossible to find an issue that unites both Republicans and Democrats. However, regardless of if you bleed red or blue, everyone can agree that clean drinking water is a basic human right and necessity. While most Americans have access to such resources, millions of people are still drinking tap water that is considered unsafe, and current legislation is not doing enough to give them healthier options.
Reports by the Guardian indicate that at least 33 major U.S. cities have circumvented water quality testing, similar to the crisis in Flint, Michigan, where drinking water was contaminated with lead and public officials did not protect the citizens (largely African Americans) from falling ill. According to one study, up to 21 million Americans drink water from systems that violate public health standards.
With so many Americans at risk due to a lack of access to resources necessary for life and health, one would think that everyone would be on board with the federal government taking action to protect them. However, while the average American usually agrees that clean water is an important right, corporations continue to hold the government in a green chokehold. The Trump administration recently announced the repeal of a 2015 clean water regulation set during the Obama era. The administration is aiming to eliminate restrictions on pollution such as waste from coal-fired power plants, methane emissions, automobile tailpipes and pesticides. Under President Trump’s new rules, polluters no longer need to receive a permit in order to dump possibly toxic substances into many bodies of water.
While it is easy to look to Capitol Hill as a scapegoat for these measures, it is important to remember that government is merely a reflection of its constituency … and with greater money comes a louder voice. Corporations and agricultural groups that produce potentially harmful waste products are a vital constituency for President Trump, who is looking toward the 2020 election and would not want to lose such a large source of supporters. Thousands of farmers and ranchers across America view environmental regulations aimed to protect water supplies as a nuisance and barrier to their economic gain.
Capitalism should not keep American officials from protecting the rights of corporations rather than all of people. In order to protect the rights of all people, compromises need to be made, and as of now, they are being made in the wrong direction. As stated by Laura Rubin, director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, “with many of our cities and towns living with unsafe drinking water, now is not the time to cut back on clean water enforcement”.
Current legislative attempts are being made to combat the Trump administration’s measures. The Environmental Protection Agency has made plans to tighten its regulations against lead contamination in drinking water and enforcement of such policy. However, some environmental conservationists point out that the new guidelines leave out plans to remove the estimated 6 million (or possibly more) underground lead service lines buried across the United States.
One form of legislative hope comes in the form of the proposed Water Act of 2019, which offers 35 billion dollars in funding to guarantee access to safe water and plans to provide green jobs that execute this work. However, positive change such as this will not come about without substantial pressure from everyday citizens. Corporations have great pull in the American political landscape, and without lobbying and pressure from unbiased citizens, the voices of corporate greed will overpower ours, with drastic implications on our health and the environment we live in.
Katherine Lee is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus. She can be reached at email@example.com.