State should adopt right water rules

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 11, 2009

If only the Gulf Restoration Network and the Alabama Rivers Alliance had graded on a curve.

Instead, the environmental groups graded on the facts, and the state of Alabama’s didn’t score so well. At issue is whether states along the Gulf of Mexico are setting the right rules to ensure compliance with the federal Clean Water Act.

Alabama got a D+. That, unfortunately, is about par for the course. Florida and Mississippi earned the same embarrassing marks as Alabama. Top-scoring Texas pulled a mere C-, and Louisiana rounded out the class with a big, fat F. If these states were schoolchildren, they’d deserve to be grounded.

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Alas, they’re not schoolchildren. They are, collectively, us — and they should be acting in all of our best interests. Clearly, that should mean adopting the right rules to protect our rivers, lakes and wetlands. The fact they fall so short ought to be a huge concern.

The Alabama Rivers Alliance noted the “Clean Up Your Act!” Gulf State report card didn’t involve a particularly rigorous test. The question wasn’t whether the states were actually enforcing Clean Water Act provisions. It was whether the states even have the right rules in place.

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management has done a spotty job even on that basic measure. Although the state got a B for establishing water quality standards involving public health — an admittedly crucial component — it flunked outright on setting statewide limits on how much nitrogen and phosphorous industries, farms, golf courses and sewer systems can dump into state waterways.

–The Birmingham News