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Vice President's Clean Water Action Announcement

03/09/1999
Carol M. Browner, Administrator Environmental Protection Agency Remarks Prepared for Delivery Vice President's Clean Water Action Announcement

                        Washington, D.C.
                         March 9, 1999
                               
     Thank you. It's great to be here today. A year ago we gathered in Baltimore to announce the Administration's Clean Water Action Plan -- a blueprint for the next generation of water quality protection.

     This blueprint was great news for our families. Cleaner water means safer, healthier, thriving communities across the nation. And today the Vice President will announce new activities to further advance that agenda.

     But before we talk about where we're going, I think it's important to remember where we've been.    Just over a quarter of a century ago, raw sewage and industrial waste were routinely dumped into our rivers, lakes and coastal waters. Remember the results? The Hudson River contained bacteria levels of 170 times the safe limit. The Cuyahoga River in Ohio actually caught fire. These and other crises pushed us to action and we passed the Clean Water Act.

     By any measure, we are better off than we were back then. Our rivers, lakes and streams are healthier. And that means better health for our communities and our economy.

     But the job is not done. Forty percent of our rivers, lakes and streams are too polluted for fishing or swimming. And there were alarming outbreaks of Pfisteria in the Chesapeake Bay and a growing aquatic dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

     In some respects the work we've done over the past 25 years -- reducing pollution from large industrial sources and strengthening our sewage treatment -- has been the easy part of the job.  When open sewer pipes and factory pipes pumped waste into our rivers, it was easier to know what to do.

     But today, in the majority of the country's watersheds, the biggest source of water pollution is not factories, but runoff from city streets, urban lawns and rural areas.

     The solutions to these problems are not as simple.

     This new challenge demanded a new approach. And this administration met the challenge when it unveiled its Clean Water Action Plan.

     Under this plan, the President and Vice President announced over 110 actions to finish the job of the Clean Water Act and then gave our states, communities and landowners both the tools and financial resources to accomplish this.

     As part of this plan, EPA has been working alongside the Department of Agriculture and other agencies to help everyone meet these goals.

      Together we're working in partnership with our states, local officials and landowners to develop collaborative strategies to protect our vast watersheds and the communities they sustain.

     This is the job we began last year. Today the Vice President will announce some of the steps we're taken to finish it.

     I think it's important to note that under President Clinton and Vice President Gore, we have been able to fundamentally change the way we look at the delicate dance between our economy and our environment.

     The President and Vice President have worked to make our communities more livable, our economy more dynamic, while still preserving our environment and protecting our natural wonders.

     Today's announcement just advances that legacy another step.

     Thank you. And now I'd like to introduce Secretary Glickman.