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The Clean Water Act is Waived for Border Wall

In the 1940’s, residents of Cleveland, Ohio had a saying: ”Anyone who falls into the Cuyahoga River does not drown. He decays.”

The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 was the first major U.S. law that addressed water pollution, but it didn’t go far enough. In the 1960’s, pollutants, raw sewage, and other materials were regularly dumped into our waterways, producing outcomes that captured the nation’s attention. In 1969, over 41 million fish died in polluted waters, and in Florida alone, 26 million fish died in Lake Thontosassa as a result of discharges from four food processing plants. In 1970, the Bureau of Water Hygiene found that thirty per cent of drinking water samples contained chemicals in excess of recommended safety limits. And the fishing industry accrued three million-dollar-losses every year, due to pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.

Lawmakers recognized the need to tighten up the legislation protecting our nation’s waters, and in 1972, The Clean Water Act replaced the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. This legislation was overwhelmingly passed by both the U.S Senate and House of Representatives, even overriding a veto by President Nixon. The purpose of The Clean Water Act is to maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of our nation’s waters, by 1) regulating the discharge of materials into U.S. waterways, and 2) implementing pollution control programs, such as wastewater standards for Industry.

So what are the consequences of waiving The Clean Water Act to expedite building a border wall? Pollutants from construction sites could be discharged into the Sonoran Desert’s fragile riparian areas and streams, and water sources could even be buried by construction materials or by the wall itself. As sources of fresh water are scarce in the desert, fouling or diverting them could be catastrophic, both for the human communities and wildlife that rely on them. Click here for a list of all 48 federal laws that have been waived for construction of a border wall.

The San Pedro River is the last free flowing river in southern Arizona and is one of the most biologically diverse areas in North America. A border barrier has been installed through the San Pedro at the border with Mexico, but because the Clean Water Act was waived, no data were gathered before or after the barrier’s installation that measured the effect of the barrier on the river and all the organisms that depend on it. Local inhabitants have reported a decrease in wildlife near the barrier, but without a systematic analysis, we can only wonder about the health of the river and the wildlife that has been lost.

Please contact your U.S. Senators and Representatives ( and let them know that you oppose waiving the Clean Water Act to expedite construction of a border wall. Click here if you would like to make a donation to help us fight the border wall.

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