New Report on Enhanced Oil Recovery’s Threats to Drinking Water: Clean Water Action Teams Up With Johns Hopkins SAIS
Since September 2016, as part of the Johns Hopkins SAIS International Environmental and Energy Practicum, I have been researching in partnership with Clean Water Action in order to inform the public about a little-known method of oil and gas production: Enhanced Oil Recovery. The culmination of our team’s research is the new report, “The Environmental Risks and Oversight of Enhanced Oil Recovery in the United States.”
What we can’t see is hurting us. The oil and gas boom is playing out in dozens of states across the country. Yet years later we are still struggling to fully understand the devastating impacts it’s having on our environment and public health.
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation has been called out by the federal government for years of failure to comply with the Clean Water Act, neglecting its drainage systems and allowing runoff from highways to pollute more than 200 bodies of water in our state for years on end.
Today’s release of the fourth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule won’t make headline news, but it is an important piece of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) work to implement the Safe Drinking Water Act and to protect public health. Two weeks ago, EPA also published Algal Toxin Risk Assessment and Management Strategic Plan for Drinking Water. These actions are connected not only by their relationship to drinking water research and potential regulation, but by what they tell us about opportunities to prevent drinking water contamination.
Frequent readers know I love Dr. Michael McGuire’s This Day in Water History blog. This week I learned that on October 21, 1914, the U.S. Treasury Department issued the first-ever numerical drinking water standards. For over 100 years, there has been recognition of the need for a federal government role in setting drinking water quality requirements. It’s not so surprising, given overwhelming data demonstrating that the American public chooses drinking water as an issue of top concern.
For years Clean Water Action and our allies have been fighting to rein in the largest toxic water polluter in the U.S. – coal-burning power plants. It’s no secret that coal-burning power plants pollute our air with unhealthy chemicals. What is not as well known is these plants have also been dumping arsenic, lead, mercury, selenium and other nasty pollutants directly into our lakes, rivers, streams, and bays for decades – far more than any other polluting industry. At the end of September, the U.S. Environmental Protection (EPA) finally closed this longstanding polluter loophole in our nation’s Clean Water Act.
Two events today illustrate the divide on clean water protection here in our nation’s capital. The first was today’s finalization of Clean Water Act limits on toxic water discharges from power plants.