Standing near the banks of the revived Chesapeake Bay, President Clinton outlined Thursday a five-year, $2.3 billion clean water initiative and pressed Congress to renew the landmark legislation that cut pollution in the nation’s waterways.
The “Action Plan” announced by the president would focus on curtailing rainwater runoff that carries pollution into the nation’s rivers, lakes and streams, especially runoff from cattle, poultry and pig farms. It also calls for cleaner beaches.
The president was joined at an environmental learning center at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor by Environmental Protection Agency Director Carol Browner, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman and Vice President Al Gore.
Twenty-five years after the passage of the first Clean Water Act, more than 40 percent of the nation’s rivers, lakes and streams remain too polluted for fishing and swimming.
“That is unacceptable,” Clinton told Maryland civic and environmental leaders.
“Every child deserves to grow up with water that is pure to drink, lakes that are safe for swimming, rivers that are teeming with fish,” said Clinton.
State and local governments have been successful at combating pollution from source points such as factories and sewage plants. The battle now, Clinton said, is curtailing polluted rainwater runoff from farms and city streets and other sources that drain harmful water into rivers, lakes and streams.
Runoff from chicken farms is suspected of causing last year’s Pfisteria bacteria outbreak in Maryland and Virginia rivers that caused ulcerated sores on fish, killing thousands of them, and, in a few suspected cases, infecting commercial fishermen.
Nitrogen and phosphorous also are blamed for the 6,000-square-mile “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of New Orleans.
Clinton’s “Action Plan” contains few details among its “more than 100 major new actions” to restore and protect water. It relies mainly on agreements with states and localities to meet their goals to clean their waterways.
Among its suggestions:
New water quality standards to ensure safe beaches and a new Internet database listing beach closings, advisories and unmonitored areas.
Increased help to states to control discharges contaminating fish, beaches and drinking water.
A national survey of contaminants in fish and shellfish by 2000 and stronger public warnings of potential health threats.
More than $120 million in new money for states to curb pollution runoff.
A new strategy to control runoff from cattle, poultry and pig farms by 2005.
More than $100 million to help farmers control pollution.
Development of a strategy to gain 100,000 wetland acres a year by 2005.
A coordinated federal response system to support state and local efforts during events such as harmful algae blooms and Pfisteria outbreaks.