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article imageOp-Ed: Rollback of clean water rule gives us even more polluted water

By Karen Graham     Sep 12, 2019 in Politics
Lapeer - It is so very fitting that the Trump administration choose today to sign into oblivion the Obama-era clean water rules. Today, farmers in a Michigan town found out the hard way about chemicals in "biosludge" getting into the soil and water supply.
Appropriately, the rollback of the "Waters of the United States" rule was announced at the headquarters of the National Association of Manufacturers, a trade group that has pushed for its repeal and replacement.
The rollback was in response to an executive order from President Trump - who criticized the regulations for curbing the rights of farmers, real estate developers, and landowners. It is expected that the repeal will take effect in just a few weeks. And that is really sad.
At a news conference Thursday, heralding the scrapping of the Clean Water rule, Environmental Protection Agency chief Andrew Wheeler said, scrapping it “puts an end to an egregious power grab, eliminates an ongoing patchwork of clean water regulations and restores a longstanding and familiar regulatory framework."
However, we will now see limited or no regulation or government protection from water pollution, including ditches, stormwater control facilities, and groundwater systems. But America should not be too surprised at this latest Trump move.
His administration has already managed to dismantle environmental protections, from curtailing regulations on methane emissions and energy-efficient light bulbs to pushing for oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
“The clean water rule represented solid science and smart public policy. Where it has been enforced, it has protected important waterways and wetlands, providing certainty to all stakeholders,” said Jon Devine, director of federal water policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“The Trump administration’s wild-eyed attempts to reward polluters, however, knows no bounds, so it is repealing these important protections without regard for the law or sound science.”
Discharge pipe: The new study documents the finding of ammonium  iodide and artificial sweeteners at...
Discharge pipe: The new study documents the finding of ammonium, iodide and artificial sweeteners at high levels flowing into our rivers and streams.
US Department of Agriculture
Interestingly, farmers have been big supporters of rescinding the Clean Water rule, claiming the rule restricted them from using their property as they saw fit. Other big supporters of the rollback included oil and gas companies and golf course owners.
Tainted sewage sludge used on farms
For over 20 years, farmers in the eastern Michigan town of Lapeer have been using leftover sludge from its sewage treatment plant to fertilize their fields. After all, it was a high-quality, free fertilizer, and this helped the town avoid the expense of disposal elsewhere.
But state inspectors called a halt to the practice in 2017 after it was found that the free fertilizer was laced with potentially harmful chemicals known collectively as PFAS. These "forever chemicals" were turning up in drinking water and foods across the country reports the Associated Press. And it wasn't an isolated case. It was happening all over the country.
PFAS is short for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances and includes chemicals known as PFOS, PFOA, and GenX. These chemicals have been highly utilized in various industries because of their ability to repel oil and water. They've been manufactured since the 1940s and can be found in Teflon nonstick products, stains, and water repellants, paints, cleaning products, food packaging, firefighting foams, and now - our food and water.
Now, the city of 8,800 people will have to pay $3 million annually to have the waste treated at another facility and any leftover solids shipped to a landfill. And yes, the state inspectors did find some fields had elevated levels of the chemical compound.
“I feel bad for them,” said Michael Wurts, superintendent of the waste treatment plant, who ruefully recalls promoting sludge as an agricultural soil additive to growers in the community. “The city didn’t do anything malicious. We had no clue this was going on.”
Marinette, Wisconsin has stopped distributing sewage waste, also called “biosolids,” to farms after getting high PFAS readings. And in Maine, a dairy farm was forced to shut down after sludge spread on the land was linked to high levels of PFAS in the milk.
“It’s been devastating. We kind of get treated like we are criminals,” said Stoneridge Farm’s Fred Stone, whose blood has also tested high for PFAS from what he believes was drinking contaminated water and milk over the years.
Ms Schwarz s research project is on the length of survival of enteric (intestinal) pathogens in cere...
Ms Schwarz's research project is on the length of survival of enteric (intestinal) pathogens in cereal crops after the application of biosolids (sewage sludge). Biosolids as fertiliser are applied to agricultural land in the Central Wheatbelt (eg. Moora) as a recycling program by the Water Corporation.
Taking the focus off sewage sludge
Many people perceive sewage sludge treatment as a problem and a danger to the environment - largely because systems in most industrialized countries, including the U.S. mix industrial wastes with household sewerage. For this reason, the term "biosolids" was introduced by the Water Environment Federation in the U.S. in 1998 as a way to hide the fact that sewage sludge may also contain substances that could be harmful to the environment when the treated sludge is applied to land.
PFOS and PFOA are the two most-studied PFAS chemicals and have been identified as contaminants of emerging concern by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Yet on the agency's website, they claim that testing has found that most foods have no or very low levels of PFAS.
In November 2016, the EPA released a non-enforceable lifetime health advisory that limited combined PFOA and PFOS exposure to just 0.07 parts per billion in drinking water.
The advisory also stated that In January 2016 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) amended its regulations to no longer allow PFOA and PFOS to be added in food packaging, which will likely decrease one source of non-drinking water exposure.
However, in a statement dated June 11, 2019, the FDA says this: "Overall, our findings did not detect PFAS in the vast majority of the foods tested. In addition, based on the best available current science, the FDA does not have any indication that these substances are a human health concern, in other words, a food safety risk in human food, at the levels found in this limited sampling. These data give our scientists a benchmark to use as we continue our critical work studying this emerging area of science."
The bottom line in all this B.S.? - We have chemicals that are never going away in our food and water, and I mean groundwater and not just lakes, streams and rivers. Yet the Trump machine thinks it is in our best interest to go right ahead and drink our contaminated water just so manufacturers, petroleum companies and developers can continue to pollute unabated.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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