Western Pennsylvania’s Three Rivers – the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio – are critical to the health and welfare of our families, our communities, and wildlife. Approximately 3.5 million people reside in the Pennsylvania portion of the Ohio River basin and its headwaters, a region that also attracts at least 18 million travelers each year.
Clean water in the Three Rivers is vital for wildlife, drinking water safety, recreation, and agriculture. Yet, for generations, the rivers have been polluted by industry, mining and urban runoff.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been essential to efforts to clean up the Three Rivers and restore the watershed to health – supporting and working with state and local efforts to keep pollution out of our waterways, hold polluters accountable, restore degraded waterways to health, and study and monitor waterways to ensure their future health and safety.
That progress is now in jeopardy. The Trump administration has proposed deep and devastating cuts to the EPA’s budget. Even if the president’s proposed cuts are scaled back by Congress, they would still have profound negative impacts on the agency’s ability to deter pollution from industrial facilities, agriculture, sewage treatment plants, runoff and other sources, while undercutting efforts to restore the Three Rivers.
America should not go back to the bad old days, when whole stretches of river in the Three Rivers basin were so polluted as to be considered biologically dead. We need a strong EPA with sufficient resources to support local cleanup efforts and partner with states and communities to protect and restore the Three Rivers.
The Three Rivers are being protected and restored to health with funding and effort from the EPA. The EPA has worked to:
Table ES-1. Clean Water in the Three Rivers Depends on the EPA
|The Three Rivers Are Cleaner Because the EPA:||The EPA Continues to Protect Clean Water by:|
|Set limits on bacterial pollution to the Pine Creek watershed in Allegheny County||Supervising pollution control across the basin|
|Funded the development of design criteria for green infrastructure in Pittsburgh||Funding pollution prevention measures in municipalities|
|Ordered Consol Energy to improve water management and monitoring to correct its violations of the Clean Water Act||Ensuring compliance with pollution standards to limit releases of mining wastewater to waterways|
|Developing an innovative permit that cleaned up legacy mining pollution in Little Conemaugh River in Cambria County||Supervising and enforcing pollution discharge permits across the state|
|Supervised cleanup at the Osborne Landfill Superfund site in Mercer County||Funding and overseeing 65 ongoing Superfund cleanups|
|Researched the effects of fracking wastewater disposal and coal-fired power plants on public drinking water sources on the Allegheny River||Conducting and supporting research into the effects of water pollution on human health and into new pollution control methods|
|Funded a program that provides students and teachers with equipment, training and assistance to study local water chemistry in Western Pennsylvania||Supporting environmental literacy and increasing the public’s understanding of the impact of human activity on waterways|
The Trump administration’s proposed cuts to the EPA budget put these and other critical functions in danger – threatening the future health of the Three Rivers.
Even if Congress makes some of these budget cuts less drastic, the Three Rivers will still suffer without full funding of EPA programs.
Figure ES-1. Estimated EPA Grant Funding Losses to Pennsylvania if Trump Administration's Proposed Budget Is Enacted (Figure Shows Cuts to Selected Programs Based on Most Recent Year for Which Data Are Available)
Note: Estimates are calculated assuming EPA budget cuts affect states by the same percentage. Reductions are based on grants from most recent fiscal year. “Water pollution control grants” are Section 106 grants, slated for a 30 percent cut. “Nonpoint pollution control grants” are Section 319 grants, cut entirely in the administration’s proposed budget. “Drinking water protection and enforcement grants” are Public Water System Supervision grants, cut by 30 percent.
The job of cleaning up and protecting the Three Rivers is not finished. Continuing pollution from agricultural, industrial and mining sources – along with the emergence of new pollution threats from new classes of industrial and household chemicals – call for continued vigilance and action. Only a well-funded EPA can continue the region’s legacy of progress in cleaning up the Three Rivers and ensure that its streams and rivers are healthy and safe for us and future generations to enjoy.
other uses, funding for the EPA and the state and local efforts it supports should be increased, not cut. For example, aging drinking water and sewage infrastructure across the nation are in need of replacement, at a cost of $600 billion over the next 20 years.
Continued progress in cleaning up existing sources of pollution and addressing new sources of contamination requires increased funding for the EPA’s clean water efforts. The agency needs resources to establish pollution limits that protect human health and to make sure that polluters abide by those pollution standards. The agency needs money to continue its critical role in supporting cleanup of past pollution and restoring damaged rivers and streams so that they can provide clean water. The EPA also needs funding to help it identify and respond to future threats to clean water. Ensuring that people who live, work and play in and around the Three Rivers have access to clean water requires full funding for the EPA.