Forty years ago on Oct. 18, the United States Congress passed the Clean Water Act of 1972. It was a great victory for not only the environmental advocates but also for humanity in general.
Our rivers, streams, and lakes fell under the newly organized (1970) Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as far as passing and regulating standardized tests on the amount of toxins polluting the waterways.
Before that time, Lake Erie, the smallest of the Great Lakes, had died. No life existed between its shores whether fauna or flora. Beyond the casting of beer bottles and trash from its shores, chemical pollutants flowed freely from factories during the highly industrial era, everywhere.
The food chain had been broken severely but it took the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson's book, "Silent Spring," for the study of the population decline of the national bird, the bald eagle, to bring attention to the lawmakers. Scientists found that the eggshells of the eagles were so thin that they cracked easily and the embryos were not able to survive.
In the early '70s the manufacture and use of the pesticide dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) was banned in the United States. DDT did not dissolve in the waterways and was saturating the fish at the bottom of the food chain which were being eaten by the eagles and human beings. DDT had been used by nearly everyone from rural farmers to urban gardeners up to that time.
Personally, I remember so well the pungent smell of the pesticide. Once, in the early '60s, my family was on a picnic with friends and although he always drove, my dad could not remember where we were. His memory loss frightened us. Later we learned it had been a slight stroke. The day before the picnic he sprayed some of the fields and ditches with DDT. Dad passed away in 1998 from lung cancer; he was 84.
Yet, the DuPont chemical industry continues to manufacture and sell DDT in other countries, and its residue continues to collect in waterways, even into the oceans.
This is why I am asking our congressional leaders to revise the Clean Water Act and to keep monitoring all of our waterways. There have been two Supreme Court rulings to water down the original Clean Water Act. The first ruling in 2001 concerned "isolated" ponds. Those not connected to a larger body of water are not protected under the Clean Water Act. In the second ruling in 2006, the "Supreme Court failed to uphold Clean Water protection for many wetlands and tributaries of larger rivers and lakes," and according to the recent Earthjustice report, "The fate of nearly 60 percent of waterways in the U.S. remains uncertain as a result." (Rapanos v. United States and United States v. Carbell)
There is one more reason, too. Since the month of October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I think of my sister, Betty, who died in 1987 from breast cancer; she was 48, married with five children. I will always blame the use of DDT.