Aqua America, Inc. (NYSE: WTR) Chairman and CEO Nicholas DeBenedictis said today that “The national standards of enforcement and initial financial support provided to municipal wastewater facilities in the 1972 Clean Water Act ultimately led to major investments by private industry and the ultimate success of the regulatory process from which we all benefit today through cleaner national waterways.”
His remarks were made today at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commission’s Winter Committee meeting in Washington, DC. “Before the Clean Water Act, only about a third of U.S. waterways supported fish habitat and could be used for human recreation, and we were losing up to 500,000 acres of wetlands – the oceans’ ‘natural filters’– annually,” said DeBenedictis. “Perhaps even more disturbing was the fact that 20 percent of drinking water samples exceeded the federal limits for certain contaminants.”
Citing an extraordinary example of water pollution prior to the Clean Water Act, DeBenedictis referenced a fire on Ohio’s Cuyahogo River that was started when a spark from a train ignited an oil slick on the river.
“Since the Clean Water Act was enacted 40 years ago, hundreds of billions of dollars have been invested in pollution control equipment and now you can swim and fish in most of the nation’s waterways; average wetland losses have fallen to fewer than 60,000 acres annually, and almost every U.S. citizen is provided drinking water that meets all health-based standards,” said DeBenedictis. “When you consider private industry has made much of the investment that has led to these improvements, it begs the question of whether tax-supported grant programs are still needed. The success of the Clean Water Act could be an example that we can afford the true cost of service for our goods and services and do not require taxes to support government entities to do for us what the private sector can economically accomplish.”