EPA Rule Would Close Loopholes in Clean Water Act, Restore Protections for Streams and Wetlands
Today, in the biggest step forward for clean water in more than a decade, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers proposed a rule to close loopholes in the Clean Water Act that leave more than half of America’s streams and millions of acres of wetlands at risk of unchecked pollution and development.
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“Whether we look back to the recent spill in West Virginia that left 300,000 people without drinking water or ahead to the dead zones that will blight Lake Erie and the Chesapeake Bay this summer, it’s obvious that our waterways are not as clean or safe as we need them to be—for our drinking water, for recreation, or for the health of our ecosystems and wildlife,” said Margie Alt, executive director of Environment America. “Today’s action by the EPA will help ensure that all our waterways get the protection they need so we can enjoy them for years to come.”
This rule-making comes after a decade of uncertainty over the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act, following polluter-led Supreme Court challenges in 2001 and 2006. The rule, which could be finalized by the end of this year, would restore Clean Water Act protections to 20 million acres of wetlands and more than half our nation’s streams, restoring protections to the drinking water for 117 million Americans.
“Today’s action is vital to the health of America’s great waters,” said Alt. “By protecting the streams that feed into mighty rivers like the Mississippi and the wetlands that filter pollution from the Puget Sound and other iconic waters, this rule is a safety net for all the waterways Americans care about.”
With so much at stake, Environment America and its state affiliates have waged an intensive multi-year campaign to restore these Clean Water Act protections—including more than 1 million face-to-face conversations across the country, and rallying more than 400 local elected officials, 300farmers and 300 small business owners to call on the Obama Administration to take action.
“Water is so important for all farmers—big and small. It’s critical to our way of life,” said Lynn Utesch, owner of Guardians of the Field Farm, a cattle farm in Kewanee County, WI. “Here in Wisconsin, we’ve experienced a new dead zone in Green Bay as an effect of the health of our streams and other waterways. To protect the waters we love and need, like Lake Michigan, we need to make sure the Clean Water Act protects all our waterways.”
Unfortunately, many of the nation’s biggest polluters have opposed the EPA’s action. Thousands of miles of pipelines running through wetlands prompted Big Oil to threaten “legal warfare” over the issue. Factory farms that dump millions of gallons of manure annually attacked the rule as a “land grab.” And with mountaintop removal literally burying valley streams in rubble and waste, big coal is also opposing these common sense clean water protections.
In Sept. 2013, the EPA announced plans to move forward with the rule-making and simultaneously released a draft science report on the connection between smaller streams and wetlands and downstream waters, which makes the scientific case for the rule-making. Members of the public submitted more than 150,000 public comments in support of the report’s findings.
“When finalized, this rule will be the biggest step forward for clean water in more than a decade,” said Alt. “Thank you, Administrator McCarthy and all the staff at the EPA, for fighting to protect clean water. We look forward to working with you to get the job done.”
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Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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