Curious about the health of your nearby streams, rivers and lakes?
A new app from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lets you find out from your smart phone, tablet or desktop computer.
The "How's My Waterway app" uses GPS technology or your zipcode or city name to give you information about the quality of your local water bodies.
The release of the app marks the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, which Congress enacted on October 18, 1972.
"America's lakes, streams and rivers are national treasures. Communities and neighborhoods across the U.S. want to know that their local lakes, rivers and streams are healthy and safe," says Nancy Stoner, acting assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Water. "This new app provides easy, user-friendly access to the health of a waterway, whether it is safe for swimming and fishing, and what is being done about any reported problems. People can get this information whether researching at a desktop or standing streamside looking at a smart phone."
After plugging in your search information, you'll instantly receive a list of waterways within five miles. Each waterway will be identified as unpolluted, polluted or unassessed.
Once a specific lake, river or stream is selected, you'll get information on the type of pollution there and what's been done by EPA and the state to reduce it. Additional information is available for many waterways on potential health risks, for example.
Successes of Clean Water Act
It's difficult to comprehend that as recently as the late 1970s, New York's Hudson River was so polluted with PCBs that the state was forced to banned fishing out of concern for human health.
Yet, this summer, the historic waterway's ecosystem was revitalized and clean enough to host the swimming portion of the US Ironman Championship - despite some last-minute concerns about a closely monitored raw sewage spill.
That the Hudson was clean enough to be considered for the race and that its quality is monitored closely enough to detect threats to water quality both point to the influence of the landmark Clean Water Act.
The Puget Sound is another high-profile success story - the act forced the City of Bremerton, Washington to reduce sewer overflow volume by up to 99%. The result: commercial shellfish beds that were closed for more than 40 years are now reopened - an economic and cultural boost for the local Suquamish Tribe.
Will the Clean Water Act Stand?
This is a bittersweet milestone for the Clean Water Act because, in their last act before the fall recess, House Republicans passed the "Stop the War on Coal" act - a piece of super-polluter legislation that seeks to dismantle the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, the Surface Mining Control Act AND the EPA.
This would be a devastating setback for the environment and for human health.
Picture below: Water samples being taken by Watauga Riverkeeper Donna Lisenby in 2008 after the 1 billion gallon TVA Kingston coal ash spill into the Emory River in Tennessee. Photo credit: John Wathen, Hurricane Creekkeper
"Just ask the citizens of Pike County, Kentucky, whose drinking water would catch fire, turn black or orange, and burn their skin after it was contaminated by the coal industry. Or talk to surfers in Malibu, California, and you're sure to find someone who became sick-some with life-threatening illnesses-after coming into contact with raw sewage and runoff," writes Marc Yaggi, executive director of the Waterkeeper Alliance and past attorney of Riverkeeper, the long-timer crusader for New York waterways.
Nasdaq honored the Waterkeeper Alliance today in Times Square.
"NASDAQ has become a welcoming home to cleantech and green tech stocks that are part of the revolution by ‘new energy insurgents' challenging the ‘old energy incumbents' for marketplace control," says Robert Kennedy, Jr., president of Waterkeeper. "Waterkeeper is proud of our association with NASDAQ."
Rather than neutering the Clean Water Act, the US should look for ways to strengthen protection of its water, says Yaggi, such as the "End Polluter Welfare Act" (H.R. 5745), introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN). The bill would end the $110 billion in taxpayer subsidies the US gives to the fossil fuel industry - the biggest water polluter on earth.
Here's the How's My Waterway app: