Officials mull possible changes in the way pollutants in our water supply are regulated

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Changes could be coming to the way pollutants in our water supply are regulated.

The Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers spent two days in the metro listening to public comment on proposed changes on the Clean Water Act.

The Trump Administration is attempting to clear up murky federal regulations of the act that regulates pollutants in the general water supply. What's been proposed would make it easier for farmers and landowners to do business and put the responsibility of clean waterways in the states' hands.

Whether that's good or bad depends on who you ask.

"We can all remember the Cuyahoga River catching on fire. That is what drove the Clean Water Act," said Mark Hague with the Environmental Protection Board.

The act was established in 1972, giving the EPA the authority to regulate pollutant discharges into the waters of the United States.

If the federal government gets its way, approximately 1 in 5 stream miles across the country and more than half of the wetlands would be removed from federal regulation, making it easier and cheaper for some like farmers and landowners to do business.

"There's a lot of people -- agricultural interests, mining operations -- a lot of people have concerns about EPA regulations, and I am sure there are some forces that have influenced it," Hague said.

"It is not trying to roll back anything,” said Jim Gulliford, an administrator with the EPA. “It is trying to get the right definitional boundary as to where the authorities of the federal government lie and where they don't."

Gulliford and his colleagues believe implementation of the Clean Water Act may be a state responsibility -- not a federal one.

“It is determining where the authority lies, whether it is part of the federal government, the state of even local communities and local communities," Gulliford said.

The Clean Water for All Coalition believes the proposed changes are dangerous because water and pollutants do not respect state boundaries.

Since waterways are connected, pollutants in smaller creeks no longer protected from pollution runoff ending up in bigger streams and rivers.

"It is an historic and consequential event because this is the first time the federal government has ever moved to remove protections for natural resources in this country to this extent," said Ron Klataske, executive director of the Audubon of Kansas.

Another federal law, the Safe Drinking Water Act ensures that no matter what happens, water from the tap coming into your house will be safe. But if water coming into treatment plants is more polluted, it will cost more to process it and that cost will be passed along to the consumer.

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