GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – The EPA is changing how it defines what is a waterway or wetland in the U.S.
Activists believe the changes could take away Clean Water Act protections for many streams and wetlands.
North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality is joining a multi-state lawsuit opposing the EPA’s final rule defining “waters of the United States.”
The Navigable Waters Protection rule is set to take effect next month.
Jill Howell with the Sound Rivers team is concerned about how this rule will impact North Carolina.
Waterways and wetlands across the state are vital for many communities and economies.
She says if wetlands are not defined as “water of the United States” it could lead to an increase in pollution.
Howell explains, “if you now allow discharge pollutants into a smaller ephemeral stream yeah that open stream might not be flowing all year round but when it is, that’s flowing into a larger body of water that is protected, but now those pollutants are in the water and there’s nothing you can do about it because they were legally discharged upstream.”
The EPA believes these rollbacks will help with economic development for farmers and builders.
“Our new rule significantly curtails the all too familiar practice of having to hire teams of attorneys to tell people how to use their own land,” states EPA administrator, Andrew Wheeler.
But states involved in the lawsuit see it differently.
Sound Rivers wants people to contact state leaders.
“We’ve encouraged our members and our supporters to call or write letters or emails to the Attorney General’s office and the department of environmental quality’s office just so they know that there is public support behind them,” says Howell.
North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality and Attorney General are pushing for a science-based approach to define waters of the United States to help preserve water quality.