Flint Reminds Us: Clean Water Is on the Line This November

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Flint, Michigan has become a household name in the United States for all the wrong reasons. A lead-in-water crisis, sparked by racist State mismanagement of the City’s water system, has been poisoning residents for a decade. Today, on the 10th anniversary of the start of this crisis, residents are still suffering the consequences and still have lead pipes

Unfortunately, Flint is not alone. It brought national attention to lead, water quality, and infrastructure issues in places across the country. It’s clearer than ever that we need policy and investments to protect our health and ensure clean, affordable water for everyone. But while some of our leaders are championing this, others are ignoring it — or worse, opposing it outright.

This November, much-needed progress on protections for our water is on the line. 

We Need Regulations to Protect Our Water from Contamination

Nationwide, our water faces multiple threats, from factory farm pollution to toxic chemicals to lead contamination. To protect our water and our health, we need strong regulations. 

In 2023, the White House announced much-needed updates to the Lead and Copper Rule. The Trump administration had put out its own weak version, delaying lead line replacements and putting families at continued risk of lead poisoning. President Biden’s new rules require most public lead service lines to be replaced in 10 years. They also lower the lead contamination level at which water systems must respond. 

This update is a vital step toward the goal of removing all lead pipes nationwide. But somehow, some electeds are opposing these strides. One Republican Attorney General even downplayed the benefits, calling them “speculative.” Of course, we know that lead is unsafe at any level in water and contributes to neurological and developmental harms.

The Biden administration also passed the first national drinking water limits on toxic PFAS “forever” chemicals. Meanwhile, the Trump administration created a loophole that helped PFAS makers avoid reporting their pollution, and slowed or rolled back action on other toxic chemicals. What’s more, many Republican lawmakers are defending the chemical industry from accountability and tougher regulations. 

At the same time, we’re still grappling with the damage done by Trump’s weakening of the Clean Water Act. The administration rolled back decades-old protections for streams and wetlands, many of which connect to drinking water sources. 

We Need Federal Funding to Build Back Our Water Infrastructure

Along with lax regulations, many of our country’s water quality issues stem from our aging infrastructure. Our pipes are old and outdated. Many water systems nationwide are struggling to keep up with costs. 

Fixing this and ensuring clean water nationwide will take a huge investment. The full cost of replacing lead lines alone will be an estimated $60 billion.

This funding is essential for public health, and it must come from the federal government. Many communities most impacted by contamination don’t have the resources to fix these problems on their own. Without federal funding, inequities in water quality and infrastructure will continue to widen.

Yet, in 2023, Republicans in the House attempted to cut almost $2 billion in federal funding for water infrastructure. The Trump Administration also completely failed to address these problems. During the former president’s term, “Infrastructure Week” became a running joke, as officials made a lot of noise about infrastructure and then never took action. 

Biden actually passed an infrastructure bill that sets aside $50 billion for our water infrastructure and $15 billion for lead line replacements. This is an important first step toward fully funding our country’s water infrastructure needs.

With Allies in Office, We Can Push For the Policies We Need

For communities like Flint, Michigan and many others nationwide, water policy is a matter of life and death. Everyone deserves safe, affordable water, and we have the policy tools to make it happen.

Though Biden has provided only a portion of all the funding we need, we have a law in Congress right now that could take it all the way. The WATER Act would provide the $35 a year billion to make the needed repairs and updates to our country’s water infrastructure, especially lead service line replacements.

The bill is sponsored by our longtime allies Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Over the past few years, it has amassed over 100 co-sponsors in both chambers and supporters amongst Congressional candidates nationwide. 

However, we currently have a loud faction of elected officials who would rather win brownie points for spending cuts and appeal to corporate polluters than protect their constituents. They stand in the way of protective water policy, and we need to vote them out. 

To replace them, we can elect lawmakers who will take our water seriously, work for water justice for communities like Flint, and ensure everyone’s right to clean water.

Join our work electing champions for clean, safe, affordable water.

4 Regulations Biden Must Push Across the Finish Line ASAP

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The clock is ticking on President Joe Biden’s first term. The administration has made progress on several regulations that would defend our health, economic well-being, and environment. But these regulations would be right in the crosshairs of a second Trump administration, in the dire event he returns to the White House in 2025.

Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can more easily overturn regulations passed by the president in the previous 60 legislative days. It would just need presidential approval. That means, with Trump in charge, we could see swift rollbacks of anything Biden finalizes after May of this year.

These next few months must be a sprint for his administration. Despite setbacks and missteps, Biden has taken massive strides to protect our food, water, and climate. To fortify this progress, the administration needs to move fast. These four things should be at the top of its to-do list.

1. Stem the Flood of Toxic PFAS Forever Chemicals

PFAS, a class of toxic chemicals, pose one of the most widespread public health threats of today. For decades, corporations made and sold PFAS while knowing the harms, with hardly a slap on the wrist. 

So far, Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed several measures to address this crisis. It proposed enforceable drinking water limits for two of the oldest and most common PFAS, PFOA and PFOS, as well as four other forms of PFAS.

It also proposed designating PFOA and PFOS as “hazardous substances” under the Superfund program. This would allow the EPA to direct polluters to clean up their messes and pay for it — insulating everyday people from picking up the tab. Companies must be held accountable, and these rules, when finalized, would be an important first step.

2. Protect Communities from Dirty Infrastructure Projects

One of our bedrock environmental laws is the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This law directs agencies to consider environmental impacts and frontline community voices when deciding whether to permit a new project. 

In 2020, Trump gutted NEPA. His rules sidelined community participation and removed important factors, like climate, in agency assessments. 

Thankfully, Biden began working to roll back Trump’s changes in 2021. Notably, the first new rule includes provisions that restore the Act’s definition of “indirect” and “cumulative” impacts, allowing agencies to examine the full consequences of proposed projects. The second, currently under review, cements environmental justice as a key consideration for agency assessments.

In order to lift up community voices, defend environmental justice, and protect the climate, Biden needs to finalize this rule.

3. Rein in Corporate Abuses Against Farmers and Growers 

In our meat industry, just a handful of processing companies reign supreme. Because of this, many farmers have no choice but to sell to Big Meat. That has allowed these companies to dictate prices, labor conditions, supply chains, and more — and they’ll do almost anything to cut costs, even at the expense of families, farmers, and workers.

The Packers & Stockyards Act was passed more than 100 years ago to prevent this, but weak rules and enforcement have enabled Big Meat’s abuses to grow.

The Biden administration announced in 2021 that it would release new rules to strengthen the Act and rein in the meat giants. However, it has finalized only one rule so far, requiring basic transparency from poultry giants to the farmers contracted to grow their chickens. Three more rules are at various stages and each is critical to restoring competition and protecting farmers.

4. Get The Lead Out of Our Drinking Water

Last fall, the Biden administration announced groundbreaking rules that finally start to address our country’s lead-in-water crisis. For decades, communities across the country have been plagued by lead pipes that leach the toxic heavy metal into their drinking water. 

Biden’s new rules set a deadline for most cities to replace lead service lines in the next 10 years. They also ban most partial lead service line replacements, which can actually increase lead levels in drinking water.

To protect our water and our health, Biden must finalize these rules ASAP and go further. He needs to pair them with funding to make sure low-income families don’t bear the cost of these replacements and include measures that ensure lead pipes aren’t replaced by PVC plastic, another toxic material.

Biden Needs to Act Fast to Keep His Promises

Biden has made important progress in protecting our food, water, and climate. Now, he needs to continue this progress and finalize vital rules in the next several months. 

While we are fighting tirelessly against a second Trump presidency, we need to prepare for any outcome. We know that Trump is terrible on our issues. In his last term, he plowed through our regulatory system, gutting protections for our families and our planet. Currently, his allies and advisers are scheming toward even more rollbacks and cuts in a prospective second term.  

To prevent this from happening again, we need every defense possible. And that means Biden must keep his promises and finish what he started. 

You can help us defend our progress on food, water, and climate. Volunteer with us!

How State-Level Organizing Could Spark National Change in 2023

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by Mark Schlosberg

It’s easy to feel discouraged with the House of Representatives controlled by hard right-wingers. But federal legislation is only one avenue for change. 

This year, Food & Water Action is working at the state level toward big policies with national impact. Building on our years of work with communities on the ground, we’re growing grassroots power. Because of that work, 2023 could be a banner year, with or without federal legislation. 

From New York, to Iowa, to Oregon and beyond, here’s how we’re moving the needle on food, water, and climate. 

How State Wins Ripple into National Action

Though the national stage gets much attention, we’ve seen how state victories can be just as impactful. For instance, back in 2011, we called for a ban on fracking, despite its popular support and reputation as a “bridge fuel” among many environmental organizations. 

Some said fighting for a ban was politically naive, but we didn’t listen. With grassroots partners in New York, we built a powerful coalition and successfully banned fracking in the state. That helped change the conversation, and the environmental community has now reached a consensus against fracking.

Moreover, the New York ban led to bans in Maryland, Washington state, and communities across the country. It also energized a growing movement working to move off fossil fuels. 

We’ve seen this happen with other issues as well, from banning arsenic in chicken feed in Maryland, to stopping water privatization in California and Illinois. These state-level efforts laid the groundwork for nationwide change. 

Now, we’re building on this history of influential state wins in our current campaigns. 

Fighting Factory Farms With Statewide Bans

For years, we’ve worked to stop the factory farms that dominate our food system, threaten our climate, and pollute our communities. 

In Oregon, a moratorium on factory farms is now in sight. We have a new governor, more champions in the state legislature, and more organizations joining our efforts. This year, we’re doubling down on on-the-ground organizing, helping Oregonians to engage their representatives and communities in this fight. 

A statewide factory farm moratorium in Oregon — the first in the country — would advance efforts against factory farms nationwide. Moreover, it would help us fight factory farm gas, a greenwashed marketing ploy propping up both dirty energy and factory farms. That’s why we’re dedicating more research, national volunteers, and funding for key tactics. 

Protecting Our Water by Going After Its Worst Abusers

Across the U.S., millions lack access to affordable clean water at the tap — but not because there’s no water. We face a crisis of underinvestment in water infrastructure, coupled with policies that put big agriculture and fossil fuel corporations before our human right to water. 

Nowhere is this crisis more extreme than in California, where over a million people lack reliable access to clean water. In 2023, we’re ramping up our campaign for water justice in the Golden State. That includes fighting for a moratorium on fossil fuel permits, factory farms, tree nuts, and alfalfa. These industries guzzle tons of water, even when the wells of nearby residents run dry. 

With upcoming research and new volunteer efforts, we can pressure Governor Newsom to protect our communities and climate. Last year, we successfully moved Newsom to embrace protection zones between oil drilling and homes and schools. This campaign, led by environmental justice groups, shows that big changes in California are possible. 

Now, we’re growing our efforts to stop new drilling permits. A statewide moratorium on new drilling in California would be the first of its kind, setting a powerful national precedent. 

Stopping Fracked Gas in Its Tracks

The science is clear: we need to move off fossil fuels as quickly as possible. That means ending policy that benefits dirty energy companies, as well as investing big in clean energy. 

So in New York, we’re working to ban gas hookups in new construction. We already won a gas ban in New York City; now, the state ban is just within reach, with support from Governor Hochul and more than 80 state legislators. 

At the same time, we’re pushing for the Build Public Renewable Act, which would allow New York’s largest public utility to build new renewable energy projects. 

Not only are we targeting fossil fuels in buildings — we’re working against fracking operations, fossil fuel power plants, and pipelines in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and California.

Moreover, we’re fighting Big Oil’s latest schemes to protect its dying industry. High on our radar: carbon capture and storage. In Iowa, we’re fighting plans for three carbon pipelines that will threaten public health and mask more pollution and emissions.

We’ve spent years on the ground in Iowa, helping to build a powerful bipartisan movement against these pipelines. In 2023, we’re advancing efforts to pass legislation that will stop pipeline companies from wrenching land from families and farmers.

Iowans aren’t the only ones threatened with Big Oil’s climate scams — hydrogen power buildouts, factory farm gas facilities, and more loom over communities across the country. A victory in Iowa will drive efforts nationwide to stop harmful industry boondoggles.

2023 Will Be Our Year — With Your Help

In the face of congressional inaction, we know we must use every strategy we have to protect our food, water, and climate. We’ve seen how state-level organizing can drive huge national changes. So in 2023, we’re doubling down on everything from blocking fossil fuel permits to protecting our water; ending factory farms to exposing carbon capture and other greenwashing grifts. 

But we can’t do it without you. Every campaign starts at the grassroots, with communities pitching in whatever they can — time, expertise, resources. With your help, we’ll secure the wins we need to secure a livable future for all.

Join us in our work toward a livable future for all!

3 Ways Access To Safe Water Is Threatened In The U.S.

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by Romain Coetmellec

In the U.S, the promise that everyone should be able to access safe water is being threatened on a daily basis.

World Water Day is a day dedicated to ensuring safe drinking water and sanitation for everyone. Assessing conditions here and around the globe, we are reminded that the fight for safe water is far from over.

Increased Privatization = Decreased Access to Safe Water

Water privatization is when private corporations buy or operate public water utilities. It’s often suggested as a solution to municipal budget challenges and aging infrastructure and water systems. Unfortunately, this more often backfires, leaving communities with higher rates, worse service, job losses and more:

  • Loss of control: water privatization reduces local control and public rights. Nowadays, 35 million Americans receive their water from privately owned for-profit utilities. Because the bottom line of a corporation is to turn profits, providing quality water and service at a fair price takes a back seat, leaving communities to suffer the consequences and financial burden. 
  • High Rates: for the typical household, privately owned water utility service costs 59% more than public water service — about $185 per year. Many communities can’t afford this.
  • Quality of service: privatization can worsen the service. There is ample evidence that maintenance backlogs, wasted water, sewage spills, and worse service often follow privatization.
  • Job loss: privatization often leads to a loss of one in three water jobs.
  • Infrastructure risks: because 70 to 80% of water and sewer assets are underground, a municipality can’t easily monitor a contractor’s performance.

Fracking + PFAS = Water Contamination

Over the past decade, Big Oil & Gas corporations with drilling and fracking operations have pumped “forever chemicals” into the ground. Over time these break into toxic substances known as PFAS.

Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are toxic, lab-made chemicals. Long term exposure to these PFAS has been associated with health problems including:

  • Thyroid disease 
  • Weakened immunity
  • Cancer

Today, PFAS are everywhere — in our drinking water, our pots and pans, and even our bodies. They simply don’t break down in the environment. Ever.

The EPA has long promised to set safety standards and address the widespread water contamination caused by PFAS. In 2021, they took a step in the right direction, announcing they would start to regulate certain types of these forever chemicals by 2023.

We need strong regulations, comprehensive limits on the full class of PFAS chemicals and adequate funding to help public water providers fully implement critical new PFAS standards. This is how we can make sure everyone has clean, safe water.

Factory Farming = Polluted Waterways

One of the nation’s most serious and persistent threats to clean drinking water is pollution from factory farm runoff.  

The agricultural sector is the greatest source of nutrient pollution to global freshwater supplies. Big Ag and meat facilities use water for everything, from animal feed and production to animal slaughtering and processing.  

Industrial livestock operations produce 1 billion tons of phosphorus and nitrogen-rich waste annually in the U.S. alone. In the U.S., this negatively impacts the water quality of:

  • 145,000 miles of rivers and streams 
  • Nearly 1 million acres of lakes, reservoirs and ponds
  • More than 3000 square miles of bays and estuaries 

How Can We — As Individuals — Help Ensure Safe Water For Everyone?

Every single one of us can play a part! 

Getting ourselves educated about the issues, informing our elected officials, voting and advocating for safe water are all within reach.

Then finally, everyone should support organizations like Food & Water Watch and Food & Water Action.

We were among the first to advocate against water shutoffs when the COVID-19 pandemic started. Our work has so far helped protect millions of people.

We fight every day to make sure water remains a right and not a luxury, at the federal, state and local levels.

Are you ready to join the fight for safe water?

Urge your members of Congress to support the WATER Act!

American Rivers Has Named Iowa River ‘Most Endangered’ In The Country

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by Emma Schmit

Iowa’s water is in crisis. There are more than 750 hazardous impairments across our state, and most of these impairments can be attributed to one industry. E. coli, MRSA, and toxic levels of nitrates are as much a part of our water in Iowa as hydrogen and oxygen. Where are they coming from? These harmful pathogens and pollutants originate in factory farms. Each year, over 10,000 factory farms across the state produce more than 72 billion pounds of manure. That waste is then spread on acre after acre of cropland, oftentimes in amounts far greater than the soil’s ability to absorb it. From there, the excess runs off into our waters, polluting our drinking water, limiting our ability to recreate on the water, and destroying critical plant and animal habitat.

Today, American Rivers named Iowa’s Raccoon River one of the Most Endangered Rivers in the U.S. The Raccoon River supplies drinking water to over half a million Iowans. Des Moines Water Works, Iowa’s largest water utility, depends on the Raccoon River in order to provide residents of central Iowa with safe drinking water. But industrial agriculture practices are rampant in the watershed. Over 750 factory farms are located in the basin and have put our access to clean water at risk. In order to provide safe drinking water to residents in Iowa’s capital city of Des Moines, the Des Moines Water Works was forced to invest in one of the world’s most expensive nitrate removal systems — a cost borne by ratepayers, not the corporate agribusiness entities responsible for the pollution.

TAKE ACTION NOW

I’ve lived in the Raccoon River Watershed for my entire life. As a child, I fished on the river. As a teenager, I swam in the river. But as an adult, I mourn the river. The memories I hold dear from my own childhood are not experiences I can now share with my child. She can’t catch a fish from a river loaded with harmful pathogens and bacteria. She can’t swim in a river that reeks with the odor of hog manure or that harbors potentially deadly algal outbreaks. The state of Iowa has traded our quality of life, our traditions, and our drinking water for Big Ag’s profit margin. While massive corporations like Tyson rake in billions of dollars by extracting our resources, hollowing out our communities, and influencing our elected officials, the residents of Iowa are left trying to hold the ramshackle pieces of our state together.

This is not what Iowa is meant to be. Our state motto proclaims, “Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain.” Where are our liberties when we can’t even step outside without being assaulted by the noxious odor of hog manure? Where are our rights when we glorify the destruction of our water, communities, and climate for the sake of corporate profit? The state of Iowa has failed us. 

But the people of Iowa haven’t. We might not have bank accounts the size of Big Ag’s. We aren’t able to buy goodwill with community pork loin giveaways. We probably can’t auction off time with the governor. But the power of the people is with us, and we will keep fighting until we win.

For too long, Iowa has turned a blind eye to the impacts of Big Ag. Today, we’re calling on the EPA to address the impacts of factory farm pollution on Iowa’s water. EPA has delegated authority to regulate the state’s factory farms to Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources, but IDNR has clearly failed us. EPA must step in to reduce the harms the factory farm industry has on the Raccoon River and all of Iowa’s waterways. Join us in the fight for clean water by urging the EPA to address the impacts of factory farm pollution on Iowa’s water.

URGE THE EPA!