News Feature | May 10, 2017

EPA Hosts 'Listening Session' On Clean Water, Gets Earful

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome

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As the U.S. EPA seeks feedback on what it should prioritize under the new administration, a clear message is coming from the public: Clean water must be a major focus.

The Associated Press described a recent public meeting held by the regulatory agency:

The U.S. EPA led a three-hour "virtual listening session" to collect public comments by phone about which clean water regulations should be targeted for repeal, replacement or modification. The call was part of the agency's response to President Donald Trump's order to get rid of regulations that are burdensome to business and industry.

As one participant put it: "I actually enjoy breathing clean air and drinking clean water and would find it quite burdensome not to.”

The feedback correlates with the findings of a recent Gallup poll released in April showing that Americans are more fearful about contaminated drinking water than they have been in 16 years, according to The Huffington Post. Sixty-three percent of respondents said they worried “a great deal” about drinking water pollution.

“The pollsters say respondents’ water pollution concerns are likely linked to the high-profile drinking water crisis in Flint, MI, which has elevated an issue that is often out of sight and out of mind,” The Huffington Post reported.

The poll found that low-income and minority respondents were the most concerned about drinking water pollution. Citing the same poll, UPI reported:

  • In the 2017 poll, about four in five nonwhites said they were concerned about pollution in drinking water, compared to 56 percent of whites.
  • In income groups, 75 percent of Americans who earn less than $30,000 a year are concerned about pollution in drinking water, compared to 64 percent of those who earn between $30,000 to $74,999 and 56 percent of those who earn $75,000 and more.

Many water utility officials have noticed an uptick in public engagement in the aftermath of the Flint crisis, according to an analysis released last year by the engineering firm Black & Veatch.

“Public engagement with water utility service providers can ebb and flow with local events such as water main breaks and treatment issues serving as catalysts for community interest. However, the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, appears to represent an inflection point in what has historically been the limited geographic reach of service performance issues,” the report said.

Image credit: "EPA," © 2011, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: