Every American deserves clean, safe water

glass of water
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glass of water

Our nation is facing a huge problem impacting communities around the country: the quality of our water. Our leaders say they’re interested in fixing America’s aging water infrastructure but they’re unwilling to bring the resources to bear to revamp a system that has countless miles of lead pipes and an estimated 240,000 water main breaks a year and leaking pipes that waste two trillion gallons of treated water.

They say they want clean drinking water in schools, businesses, and homes, but the the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working to undermine the Clean Water Rule. It’s a safeguard put in place last year that would protect the drinking water of 117 million Americans.

{mosads}These are not the actions of people actively looking to ensure all Americans, no matter where you live, have access to clean and safe drinking water or water to play, fish, or swim in.


This isn’t just a problem in Flint, Michigan it’s a problem from coast to coast. High levels of lead plague schools, the industrial chemical polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) permeates water supplies around the country, and other industrial pollution continues to seep into our lakes, rivers, and streams.

Our drinking water infrastructure is in a sorry state. Utility workers see big problems each day. But, beyond what our members experience, it’s been recognized by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in their 2017 Infrastructure Report Card. ASCE gave our systems a “D” grade and recommended reinvigorating the federal government’s revolving loan program by tripling appropriations to it, fully funding the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation act, and helping local communities get tax-exempt bonds to make sure they can get the money needed to fix local problems.  

There’s no lack of solutions out there to help communities deal with water quality issues and to prevent them in the first place at the source. There is a lack of political will in Washington, D.C. to do the right thing.  

Utility workers see every day how a lack of investment has resulted in a wasteful and increasingly dangerous  water system. We know how to fix the problems facing us and how fixing them will create quality jobs for people all around the country. There is an incredible economic opportunity here that we’re missing out on and it is one that is truly a no-brainer to fix.

The bottom line is that this is not the time for local, state or federal governments to be rolling back protections for clean water. Instead, they should be investing in our water systems and making sure that every American, no matter who they are or where they live, has access to clean and safe water.

D. Michael Langford is the National President of the Utility Workers Union of America. Under his leadership, the Utility Workers Union of America has committed to represent the interests of both the public and its workers to bring about long over-due national reform that will deliver safe, reliable, cost-effective and environmental friendly utility services across the country.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.


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