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Chair Napolitano Statement from Hearing on Emerging Contaminants, Forever Chemicals, and More: Challenges to Water Quality and Public Health

October 06, 2021

Washington, D.C. — The following are opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, from Chair of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA) during today’s hearing titled, “Emerging Contaminants, Forever Chemicals, and More: Challenges to Water Quality, Public Health, and Communities.”

Video of Chair Napolitano’s opening statement is here.

More information on the hearing can be found here.

Chair Napolitano:

Today’s hearing has been a long time coming. 

This is our first hearing in about 10 years on emerging and persistent threats to our water and how these threats affect human health and the health of our communities and our environment. In that time, there have been many studies conducted and new science developed on tracking and treating such contaminants. I am glad to have a panel of experts in front of us today to catch us up on the latest information.

Today, we know more about the impacts of contaminants on human health, aquatic species, and the environment; however, there remain some gaps in our understanding. At this hearing, we will explore the impacts of these contaminants and the roles that federal and state governments should play to protect our health and the health our water resources.

Water quality and the protection of our surface water resources is not a partisan issue. The Clean Water Act was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support; enough to override a presidential veto. I know that the goals of that Act are something we can all agree on, even today.

To ensure water quality for communities across the nation, we must rely on two separate but important elements: in-depth knowledge on threats to water quality, and various tools with which to manage those threats.

During the last administration, we saw unprecedented steps to critically weaken both of these initiatives.

The Trump EPA needlessly weakened Clean Water Act protections over rivers, streams, and wetlands that provide drinking water to over 117 million Americans—but, fortunately, for all Americans, this illegal action has now been thrown out by the courts.

The Trump EPA also slowed water quality enforcement efforts to a standstill, imposing political influences on decisions when (or if) to enforce the law.  Worse still, the Trump EPA actively tried to undermine and silence the scientific and technical expertise and effectiveness of the agency—putting all our communities at increased risk.

The Biden administration has started to restore the critical mission of EPA to protect human health and the environment. However, there is a lot of work to be done to correct previous inadequacies and get our research and water quality management back on track.

We must protect our most vulnerable communities from unfettered pollution and the burden of forever chemicals and harmful contaminants. Many of the discharges being discussed today come at an extremely high cost to the health of humans and the environment, to local economies, and to local water treatment plants forced to bear the costs of removal.

Simply put, we cannot allow upstream polluters to introduce dangerous pollutants into our waterways at the cost of everyday citizens and businesses. We can’t tolerate polluter giveaways and corporate profits at the expense of our environment. Water is too essential to human life to be threatened anywhere.

I look forward to hearing from our highly esteemed panel on the biggest threats to our water quality and what additional tools we can provide to eliminate these threats. We must be vigilant in protecting our water, including learning current and future threats to human health and the environment and ensuring we meet these challenges to clean water for all.

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