BlueGreen Alliance Lauds 40 Years of Cleaner Water, Lays Out Plan for Future

Honoring the Clean Water Act, the BlueGreen Alliance celebrated this historic act by laying out a plan to build on its legacy by bolstering America’s aging water infrastructure system and commitment to protecting our waters.

October 17, 2012

Vision for Infrastructure, Protection, and Efficiency To Ensure Clean Water and Create Jobs

WASHINGTON, DC (October 17, 2012) Honoring 40 years of progress made as a result of the Clean Water Act, the BlueGreen Alliance’s labor and environmental leaders celebrated this historic act today and laid out a plan to build on its legacy by bolstering America’s aging water infrastructure system and commitment to protecting our waters.

Twenty-five years ago, only a third of the nation’s waters were safe for fishing and swimming, wetland losses were estimated at about 460,000 acres per year, and agricultural runoff resulted in the erosion of billions of tons of soil and deposit of large amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen into our waterways. The Clean Water Act and subsequent legislation reversed decline in the quality of our nation’s waters, and strategic investment in water infrastructure — pipes, treatment plants, and sewage and stormwater treatment  — is critical in ensuring ample clean water for our communities and economy.

“Just like 40 years ago, it’s time to double down on our commitment to water protection and strong infrastructure,” said David Foster, Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance. “Water main breaks and flooding come at a high cost to taxpayers. Fixing our crumbling infrastructure now means averting much higher costs down the line, and putting significant numbers of people back to work sooner.”

“Without water infrastructure we can rely on, we not only threaten the economy but also put our families and neighbors at risk for public health problems,” Foster added.

In 2009, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave both the nation’s drinking water and wastewater a D- on the its Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. Across the nation, an estimated 240,000 water main breaks occur each year – more than 700 per day.

Every $1 billion in direct investment results in an estimated $3 billion in total economic impact through industries that are directly or indirectly related to building or improving water and wastewater infrastructure, according to a study by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Additionally, each billion dollars of investment is estimated to create and sustain 20,000 jobs across the economy.

“The silver lining is that fixing America’s old, out-of-date water infrastructure and protecting our water to ensure it is clean is an opportunity to create jobs for American workers,” said Mike Langford, President of the Utility Workers Union of America. “Day in an day out, our members make sure that every glass of tap water is crystal clear and that our lakes and waterways are sewage free. Privatizing our water system is the wrong route to take given water’s role in public health, economic development, national security, and quality of life. We shouldn’t have to worry if the water we’re drinking is clean because the private company in charge of it decided to put profits ahead of our safety.”

Ensuring domestic sourcing provisions — which means using American-made iron, steel and manufactured goods — are attached to water investment initiatives is vital in creating jobs and benefits in sectors across the national economy.

“Both flooding and droughts have wreaked havoc on the environment, our water supply and our overburdened water infrastructure systems in communities all over the country — and things will only get worse as our climate continues to change,” said Jeremy Symons, Senior Vice President for Conservation and Education at the National Wildlife Federation. “Water is a vital need in America. We need to move forward with water infrastructure improvements and support strong water protections to safeguard our communities and environment, and to create good jobs.”

Environmental protections like the Clean Water Act have in the past and will continue to spur innovation and development, and create new products for the market that raise environmental quality.

“Our workers have the skills to ensure installation and construction of green infrastructure projects are effective and maintain water quality standards.  Changing our water infrastructure strategy from band aid fixes only to a longer term strategy that makes investments with routine maintenance and upgrades will protect public health and create good jobs,” said Russ Breckenridge, Senior Legislative Representative of UA. “It’s a necessary switch that we should all support.”

Listen to the press conference below.