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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Administrator Johnson, American Water Works Association, Washington, D.C.

03/30/2006
    Good morning. This is the first opportunity I’ve had to speak to the American Water Works Association and I thank you for the invitation. I am particularly honored to be here to help you celebrate the 125th Anniversary of the Association. It is an impressive milestone.

    Every time I drink a glass of water, which my wife says I need to do about eight times a day, I am reminded of the importance of our commitment to provide clean, drinkable water to the public.

    I understand you and your members’ passion for protecting our nation’s drinking water for the millions of customers you serve. As a 25 year scientist at the United States Environmental Protection Agency, I share your commitment to preserving our resources for the next generations – our children and grandchildren.

    Our work reminds me of the ever-flowing cycle that water undergoes. As water flows from mountaintops, through valleys, into rivers, and into oceans, we have all come together today from our various sources to gather for the great importance of our water’s well-being. As we evaporate back to our homes after this gathering, I know the benefits of our work will continue to flow for generations to come.

    When the AWWA was created 125 years ago, our nation still experienced major outbreaks of disease and endemic illness from contaminated drinking water. Efforts undertaken by water utilities to advance water treatment throughout the last century have had a tremendous effect on improving public health in the United States.

    As some of you may know, EPA is also celebrating an Anniversary – our 35th. Although, not as impressive an anniversary from a numerical point of view, the changes to our nation’s environment since the founding of the Agency have been significant.
    35 years ago, our nation awoke to the health and environmental impacts of rampant and highly visible pollution, contaminated rivers catching on fire, people abandoning towns built on toxic sites, and pollution so thick in some cities that people had to change their shirts twice a day.

    But looking back, we see much to celebrate - our air is cleaner, our water is purer, and our land is better protected.

    Over our 35 years, EPA has not just changed the way our environment looks, EPA has changed the way we look at our environment.

    Indeed, contrary to those who said in the 1970’s that EPA and environmentalism were a passing fad, EPA has led the nation-wide effort to clean-up and protect the environment … and these successes are all around us. Nearly 90 percent of our nation’s water systems are meeting drinking water standards for over 90 contaminants, several successful water-pollution source clean-ups have been set in motion by the Clean Water Act, and communities are implementing watershed approaches to protect their water resources. The result -- people are living healthier lives.

    These results create economic benefits along with environmental gains. Businesses, that once believed they had to choose between a healthy environment and a healthy economy, are finding that their customers have expectations for how products or services they purchase affect the environment. In fact, EPA is working arm-in-arm with many businesses to voluntarily reduce their environmental impacts - in cost-effective ways. Leading companies are proving that doing what’s good for the environment is also good for business.

    By a stream of collaboration with businesses, addressing environmental and economic issues, EPA is proving to companies they can invest in the environment, while boosting their bottom lines. And it’s not just about the bottom line; instead, businesses are yet another powerful river flowing into the ocean of our good work.

    Over EPA’s 35 years, we have learned that when acting alone, environmental progress is limited. However, when we collaborate with businesses and agencies, our environmental progress accelerates like water flowing downhill.

    This stream of collaboration is essential as we work to provide the American people with secure, sustainable water supplies. Ensuring the sustainability of our nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure is not just an EPA challenge - it is everyone’s challenge. Through the use of new technologies and effective, innovative approaches – like stewardship and collaboration – we can make better use of our collective resources, and move the nation’s water infrastructure down a pathway toward sustainability over the next several decades.

    When I became the Administrator of the EPA, the President charged me with accelerating the pace of environmental protection while maintaining our nation’s economic competitiveness.

    There are three principles that I intend to follow to accelerate the pace of environmental protection.

    The first principle is results and accountability.

    EPA is committed to being a good steward of our environment and a good steward of our tax dollars. To provide the American people with the environmental results they expect and deserve, the Agency must operate efficiently and effectively through the use of transparent management tools and measures.

    The President’s budget includes two programs that have been delivering some of the longest standing and greatest environmental successes. The President’s FY 2007 budget requested $841.5 million for Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and $688 million for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. These very successful programs have resulted in more than $62 billion in water infrastructure investments since they began. However, we know that this funding alone cannot meet the infrastructure needs that are out there. This is one reason why the Agency has been working to develop a Sustainable Infrastructure Strategy to guide our efforts in changing how the nation views, values, manages, and invests in its water infrastructure.

    The Sustainable Infrastructure Strategy is reflected in my second principle - innovation and collaboration.

    We believe that working with utilities to encourage incorporation of better management practices will improve performance and efficiency, that promoting wise use of our water resources just makes sense in a resource-limited environment, that full-cost pricing of services will help utilities better meet their investment needs, and that watershed approaches afford great opportunities for protecting drinking water from contamination.

    Ensuring that our Nation's water and wastewater infrastructure is sustainable in the future is one of EPA's highest priorities and we appreciate the support and commitment shown by AWWA and its members to this important objective. Your leadership is both critical and greatly appreciated.

    To further promote sustainability, the President's 2007 budget request includes $7 million for a water infrastructure initiative -- a research effort to evaluate promising innovative technologies to reduce the cost of operating, maintaining and replacing the wastewater collection and drinking water distribution systems that account for most of the infrastructure needs facing water utilities.

    And as we continue to build toward a bright and healthy future, EPA will ensure that the best available science remains at the center of our decisionmaking - my third principle for accelerating the pace of environmental protection.

    EPA’s commitment to sound science is emphasized in our responsibility to meeting the President’s top priority: the safety and security of the American people. EPA plays a vital role in protecting our citizens and our environment from the effects of attacks using chemical, biological, and radiological agents, with special responsibilities for water security and decontamination efforts. I want to particularly thank AWWA and many of its members for your efforts in helping us to advance improvements in securing our nation’s water infrastructure.

    Protecting our water supplies is imperative and the President’s FY 2007 budget requests $42 million for improved water security, including the WaterSentinel pilot program. This pilot program will demonstrate how EPA has taken a leading role in protecting the citizens of this Nation. The program will develop, test, and disseminate information about prototypes for contaminant warning systems that water utilities can consider for their own use. Although the driver for the program is based on intentional threats, we believe our model is also relevant for non-intentional threats to water systems due to spills or other accidental releases of contaminants.

    The use of sound science doesn’t stop at securing America’s safety. EPA is using sound science to secure America’s health.

    Based on the best available science, I signed two new drinking water regulations last December to control microbial pathogens and byproducts that can result from practices used to disinfect drinking water. These rules provide a safe balance between the need to disinfect drinking water while protecting citizens from potentially harmful contaminants. They take a risk-based targeted approach that requires systems to determine if they are at risk from contamination and then take appropriate corrective actions to address potential contamination.

    Sound science is the basis of our efforts to protect and clean our nation’s water and evaluate the health and environmental impacts of contaminants that are found in water. As the Agency reviews existing regulations for drinking water contaminants and considers new contaminants for regulation, we must ensure that our final actions consider the best scientific information available.

    The use of sound science is particularly necessary in our efforts to confront a major threat to water quality and sources of drinking water – nonpoint source pollution. 35 years ago, the threats to our nation’s water were clearer - and we set out to stop the practice of dumping of waste directly into our rivers and waterways. We must continue to teach people that their individual actions can add up to big environmental gains.

    We know there is still work to be done to maintain the public health gains we have made. Fortunately, water utility directors and public health officials are on the front lines of ensuring that Americans’ water is safe and secure.

    Working together with leaders like each of you, we will not only continue to change the way our environment looks - we will continue to change the way we look at our environment, and we’ll be able to celebrate that success at AWWA’s 250th Anniversary!

    The stream of collaborative efforts we have engaged in with AWWA and its member utilities have been critical to help us successfully protect public health. I look forward to continued work with you to ensure that we have clean, safe and secure drinking water now and into the future.

    Thank you.