September 21, 2018
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Water is a gift from our Creator. It’s our spiritual duty to protect it.

George Danby | BDN
George Danby | BDN
By Andy Burt, Special to the BDN

A federal judge recently blocked the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back the clean water rule, reinstating it in 26 states across the country, including here in Maine. This ruling blocks the repeal of common-sense clean water standards, and stopped the Trump administration and its allies in Congress from undermining the Clean Water Act.

As a person of faith, I view water as sacred and a healing force. Since childhood I have looked forward to the first warm days of summer to plunge into a crystal clear lake and emerge refreshed and centered. Standing beside my father hip-deep in a meandering brook as we fished for a trout dinner and long days of dam-building with friends in the neighborhood stream are memories of bonding with family and friends that I cherish, and I wish the same for my grandchildren.

Water is a cleansing and life-giving symbol in nearly every religion or spiritual practice. Many faith traditions use water in sacred ceremonies, and water figures centrally in many of our foundational stories. From a baptismal font to the River Jordan to indigenous cleansing rites, there is no denying that water, a wonderful gift from the Creator, is truly sacred.

Beyond the spiritual need for water, there is a practical need, as water is a fundamental component of all life. The Waters of the United States Rule is an important step in ensuring clean and healthy water for Maine and other states. This rule clarifies what waterways are protected under the Clean Water Act, and it will ensure that drinking water for one-third of all Americans is safe and clean. Under the clean water rule, wetlands, intermittent and seasonal streams, and tributaries, which are all vital parts of our watersheds and sustain life, are protected. In Maine, we know that safeguarding our fresh water sources also assures healthy marine ecosystems.

Maine is blessed with an abundance of water. From Moosehead Lake to Long Lake to the Penobscot River, Maine’s lakes, rivers, streams and other waters are where we go to fish, swim, canoe, get away and spend time with family and friends. Maine’s lakes provide clean drinking water to nearly two-thirds of our state. Without the clean water rule, however, 25,000 miles of Maine’s streams would be open to pollution.

The clean water rule is a spiritual and practical issue that affects communities in Maine and people across the country. Eighty percent of Americans favor the clean water rule — a number that transcends the partisan divide. More than four in five voters say that “water pollution” is a very or fairly important priority.

The clean water rule is necessary to close loopholes in the Clean Water Act and help protect more waters — including streams, creeks, wetlands and ponds — which in turn protects drinking water for our communities.

For more than two decades, the Maine Council of Churches has worked to protect the environment, including protecting the waters of Maine. As people of faith, we have a clear moral call to ensure clean water in our state. The Clean Water Act, developed and championed by Maine’s congressional leaders more than 40 years ago, has been invaluable over the decades in protecting the people of Maine and preserving the natural beauty of our waterways.

I encourage the Environmental Protection Agency to end the reckless attack on the clean water rule so that we can be the good stewards that the Creator calls us to be and ensure that all communities in Maine and beyond have safeguards against poor water quality.

Andy Burt is the former environmental justice program director for the Maine Council of Churches and has worked with social justice groups in Maryland, Indiana, Michigan and Maine focused on peace, homelessness and environmental issues. She was awarded the Peace Action Maine Peacemaker of the Year (2005) and the EPA New England Region Environmental Merit Award (2006).

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