EPA official says water will be cleaner after deregulation announcement

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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – The Trump administration is rolling back an Obama-era ruling on the definition of “Waters of the United States.” The Environmental Protection Agency says this deregulatory action will save American’s $3.7-billion annually, but environmental groups say there is also a higher risk of polluted tap water.

EPA Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio made the announcement for this region in Huntington Thursday afternoon.

“Today, our EPA Administrator, Andrew Wheeler, has announced the repeal of the ‘2015 Waters of the United States rule.'”

Only 22 states enacted the ruling, including Ohio, but it was tied up in the courts before anyone could implement it.

Robin Blakeman is the Project Coordinator with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and she says this announcement puts people at risk.

“This rule will hit West Virginia really hard in that over one million West Virginian’s depend on drinking water that comes from areas containing streams that would lose protections,” Blakeman said.

“Waters of the United States” and the current rules put tighter restrictions on the use of the nation’s rivers, lakes, and wetlands. Servidio says the water, even with fewer regulations, will get cleaner.

“Water will definitely get cleaner,” Servidio said. “We’re following what has been proposed and has been established by Congress.”

The EPA says this will allow businesses and property owners to have more authority over their own land and water resources, but environmental groups question how effective the new rules will be.

“The Ohio River is already considered the most polluted inland waterway in the country and it could get exponentially worse,” Blakeman said.

The Trump administration says the regulatory process will go back to the way it was before the 2015 ruling, restoring “national consistency” in water management.

The EPA says today’s announcement is “Step 1” of Trump’s executive order and “Step Two” will be the new definition of “Waters of the United States.”

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