Trump’s EPA Cuts Could Wreak Havoc with Delaware River Watershed

Water-related programs at federal agency could be trimmed by almost 35 percent, affecting host of efforts in place to protect water quality

Delaware river
The Trump administration’s proposed cuts in environmental spending threaten restoration efforts within the Delaware River watershed, according to a new report by an advocacy group.

The slash in spending for next year’s budget for the federal Environmental Protection Agency could undermine efforts to reduce pollution in waterways, cut funding for research into threats to water quality, and impair enforcement of various programs, the report claimed.

Water-related programs at the agency could be trimmed by as much as 34 percent, hobbling efforts to prevent runoff from polluting the waterways, monitor water quality, and protect the watershed and wetlands, advocates said.

“Slashing EPA’s clean water programs makes no sense,’’ said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, whose research and policy center released the 25-page report. “The job of cleaning up the Delaware River watershed is not done.’’

With jurisdiction for more than 1,000 pollution permits in the lower Delaware, the agency’s enforcement budget faces a 25 percent cut, the report noted, possibly curtailing efforts to enforce the law and to address violations that harm water quality.

Overall, there are more than 4,000 facilities with permits to discharge pollution into waters of the Delaware River Basin, which supplies drinking water to 15 million residents in four states, including New Jersey.

“Trump’s budget cuts would devastate New Jersey’s environment and economy, especially along the Delaware,’’ added David Pringle, campaign director for Clean Water Action.

The report projected New Jersey could lose approximately $1.1 million in water-pollution control grants, another $2.5 million for nonpoint-pollution control grants, and $581,000 for drinking-water protection grants under the proposed budget.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection gets about half of its funding from the EPA for its programs, so the cuts would be particularly hard for the state to absorb, according to Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

“The proposed cuts to the EPA’s clean-water programs could have devastating effects on the Delaware River and the people who depend on it for their drinking-water supply and livelihoods,’’ said Drew Tompkins with the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters.

The proposed budget is scheduled to be adopted by the end of next month by Congress, which has sparked opposition from members of both houses.

The report also says the cuts could jeopardize cleanups of 14 Superfund sites the federal agency took over from the state in New Jersey, including four located in the Delaware River Basin.

While the report cites progress in cleaning up environmental problems in the Delaware, it suggests numerous problems remain to be addressed within the basin. They include continuing pollution from sewer systems and threats from new classes of industrial and household chemicals that have been found in drinking-water supplies.

The advocates are hoping the report will help drum up support among both the public and Congress to oppose the funding cuts and rollbacks proposed by the Trump administration.

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