PORTLAND, Maine – The Trump administration is moving forward with efforts to scrap the 2015 Clean Water Rule, a move that concerns conservation groups and the state’s tourism industry.
About half of Maine’s drinking water comes from surface water that is fed by small streams, said Nick Bennett, a staff scientist for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. Sebago Lake is so clean, he said, that it earned a filtration waiver, which saved Portland the $100 million price tag most cities pay for water-filtration systems.
“The way that you have to keep Sebago Lake clean is, you’ve got to keep the streams that flow into it clean, and if you don’t, that filtration waiver will go away,” Bennett said. “There are very, very few filtration waivers in the United States.”
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has said his agency is taking “significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses.” However, groups including the National Wildlife Federation oppose the repeal, saying the process has been rushed with limited input for the 117 million Americans whose water quality will be affected.
Collin O’Mara, the federation’s president and chief executive, said candidate Donald Trump promised crystal-clean water, but now seems to be rushing to roll back Obama-era clean-water protections, without a meaningful alternative.
“Today, the administration is taking the formal step of undoing those rules,” he said, “and, frankly, leaving the drinking-water supply of more than 100 million Americans in limbo.”
Bennett said Maine is heavily dependent on tourism, particularly people who come to fish for the brook trout that thrive in clean streams and stream-fed ponds.
“Fishing is worth somewhere around $300 million to $400 million a year in Maine, and we’re a small state, and that is big money,” he said. “Once again, if we don’t protect our small streams, that’s an industry we are going to lose.”
According to the federation, the next step in the process could end up removing Clean Water Act protections for nearly 60 percent of streams and more than half of the wetlands in the lower 48 states.