By Aaron Ferster
Chances are if you hear someone yell out “come on in—the water’s great!” you can be pretty sure they mean that the temperature of the water is delightful. Not too hot, not too cold. But 40 years ago, before the establishment of the EPA and the passage of the Clean Water Act, you might have had cause to wonder if what they were referring to was the quality of the water: that it is free of pollution or other potentially harmful contaminants.
As Dr. Suzanne van Drunick, National Program Director for EPA’s Safe and Sustainable Water Resources Research Program writes in the latest issue of our Science Matters newsletter:
“Forty years ago, the dire state of the nation’s water resources was a national concern. The assaults were direct and numerous: untreated sewage, industrial and toxic discharges, contaminated runoff, and widespread destruction of wetlands.
For many, the symbol of that decay came in June of 1969, when something perhaps as simple as a wayward spark from a passing train ignited a mass of oil-soaked debris floating on the surface of the contaminated Cuyahoga River—sending thick, billowing black clouds of smoke into the air. A river on fire.”
As Dr. van Drunick points out, in the 40 years since, much of the nation’s waters have become significantly cleaner and safer. How did the clean up begin? It all started with science.
The EPA science and engineering designed to keep the environmental and human health success story of the Clean Water Act moving forward is the focus of the newsletter. The stories illustrate how EPA’s Safe and Sustainable Water Resources Research program is providing the innovative science and engineering solutions needed to meet 21st Century challenges, such as the need for more “green infrastructure” to reduce the burden on aging sewer systems, protecting recreational water, combating invasive species from ballast water, and much, much more.
I invite you to “dive right in” and enjoy the latest issue of EPA’s Science Matters to learn more.
About the Author: Aaron Ferster is an EPA science writer.