As a child in the early 60s, I swam in Lake Michigan at a beautiful beach in Grant Park, South Milwaukee. The water was ice cold even in August and clear as glass. Ten years later that same beach was closed to swimming. Piles of dead fish littered the sand dunes, industrial slime and raw sewage washed ashore in a garbage cocktail. Lake Michigan, like its sister Lake Erie, was near death-a victim of pollution.
Enter the Clean Water Act of 1972 and its many additions and amendments. Along with the Clean Air Act of 1970, the Clean Water Act could be argued as the most successful bill passed to protect the environment and although President Nixon vetoed the bill, it passed Congress in a bi-partisan vote, something unheard of today.
If you see Grant Beach today, it is the pristine beauty it was in the early 60s. In an amazing turnaround, Clean Water Act regulations allowed Lake Michigan to heal itself. The Clean Water Act became even stricter with additions as late as the 80s. In the 90s, however, The Clean Water Act was under attack for being too confining for companies to work within. Under the Bush Administration, the clean water act was modified to loosen regulations.
And now, in less than 12 hours, the Wisconsin State Senate Natural Resources and Environment Public Hearing on the Polluters Over People bill (Special Session AB/SB 24) will occur at the State Capitol. Please take action by attending, contacting your legislator or just getting the word out to your friends and neighbors about this damaging bill.
At a time when pollution should be regulated more, our State and Federal Governments are backsliding. We must take a stand now, or I fear for Grant Beach, Lake Michigan and all the waterways in the USA. Let your government bodies know that scaling back the Clean Water or Clean Air Act is not acceptable.
For more information on the hearing and what you can do, follow: http://www.facebook.com/SierraClubWI
For more information on the history of The Clean Water and Air Acts, see: http://greenlaw.blogs.law.pace.edu/2011/04/01/cwa101/
Stories of historical interest: http://blog.cleveland.com/metro/2009/01/after_the_flames_the_story_beh.html