Recently, the Trump Administration announced that it would be rolling back a Water Rule created by the Obama Administration in 2015. According to the New York Times, the law that Obama enacted protected waters by requiring people or companies to obtain permits that would allow them to pollute or create new waterways. This law was already facing trouble across the country, due to a number of lawsuits that have led to inconsistent rules pertaining to the allowance of pollution across states, according to the Wall Street Journal. However, instead of fighting for more federal control over the water, the Trump Administration has removed many of the provisions, in the interest of protecting corporations from the strict regulations and excess government oversight. However, these rollbacks make pollution in our water much more likely.
PHOTO COURTESY OF SPENCER PLATT—GETTY IMAGES
Reading this news in the wake of the Newark water crisis left a particularly bad taste in my mouth. In case you are not up to date on the issues Newark is having–which would not be surprising, considering it has hardly garnered any news coverage–let’s recap. This water crisis has been on Newark Board of Education’s Radar since 2010, when water testing revealed that 12.2% of the samples were above the federal actionable lead level, according to CNN. Reporting that all the contaminated water fountains were turned off, the problem was largely dismissed. In 2017, Newark tested against the water again, revealing that over 10% of the homes were above the lead levels. Not until the Natural Resources Defense Council and Newark Education Workers caucus sued the state or school that any action was taken. In 2018, city officials made a plan to distribute 40,000 water filters to residents. In February, the Natural Resources Defense Council asked the city to mandate bottled water to some residents, and in June more testing was done revealing that Newark violated the federal allowed levels of lead for the fifth consecutive time. In August, the city and state began providing water bottles for residents.
Not only has the President failed to provide any help to Newark, he is now showing the country that the safety of citizens is not his priority–rather, he prefers to help large corporations pollute without permits so that they can make as much profit as possible. And it is no coincidence that this crisis is in Newark–those with enough money and political power would never have to live under such difficult situations. Political positions aside, this is a fundamentally human issue–no one should have to worry about clean water in our country. We should be working constantly to make sure that living conditions are improving, but somehow the steady decrease of water conditions in Newark is not important enough to attract national attention. I’m afraid that Flint was only the start of issues such as these, but we can’t let clean water crises become normalized. We should not be only expecting our government to enforce stricter water policies, but also looking for ways to improve the infrastructure and water treatment systems in our country. The president’s neglect of environmental issues is not only about the wellbeing of the environment itself, but connected directly to the wellbeing of people–and water quality should be at the top of our priority list.