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Rouge River Roundtable with Cong. Dingell

                         Carol M. Browner

Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Rouge River Roundtable with Cong. Dingell

                           Dearborn, MI

                      Prepared for Delivery
                         July 29, 1996

I want to thank Congressman Dingell for bringing us together today and for his long record of working to protect public health and our environment and to provide communities with the resources they need to clean up their rivers, lakes, and streams. During the past two years, Congressman Dingell has been a leader in standing up against those in Congress who would attack our public health and environmental protections.

It is a pleasure to join representatives of state and local government and community leaders here today to hear from you firsthand about the very exciting work you are doing to clean up the Rouge River.

We at EPA have been proud to work with all of you on this very important project that is truly a model for the nation. Since 1992, $288 million in EPA grants has been awarded for your communities to clean up and restore the river, to protect your health, your economy, and your communities, and to make the Rouge River the valuable community asset that it deserves to be.

There is no doubt in my mind that an informed, involved local community will always do a better job of making environmental decisions than some distant bureaucracy. On the Rouge River -- one of this country's most polluted rivers in one of our most industrialized areas -- we see people coming together, recognizing the importance of clean, safe water -- for the public's health, for the environment, and for the economy. You have come together to protect your community by protecting your water -- citizens, government, business and community leaders working together to keep raw sewage out of the river, to control pollution from stormwater runoff, to clean up contaminated dump sites and control pollution from discharge pipes, to educate and involve the public.

All of us can be proud to see fish returning to the river, canoeing beginning on the river. We can look forward to the day when fishing and swimming will once more be safe and enjoyable on the Rouge River.

With this project, you are protecting your own community and making a significant contribution to restoring and protecting the Great Lakes as a whole -- a magnificent national treasure and the source of drinking water for 23 million people.

As you continue to take action to protect your water, you will continue to see the benefits -- for the public's health, for the environment, for the economy.

EPA recently released a national report, entitled Liquid Assets, that demonstrates beyond a doubt that clean, safe water is essential to the health of our communities and our nation's economy. Clean water is a boon to the nation's economy, not a drain. Clean water brings billions of dollars into our economy each year.

We do not have to choose between our health and our jobs. Economic prosperity and environmental protection go hand in hand. A healthy economy begets a healthier environment; a healthy environment -- a stronger economy.

Clean water is of vital importance to recreation and tourism -- a $380 billion industry -- to manufacturers, who use 13 trillion gallons of water each year, to agriculture, and to real estate. Properties located along clean water areas are worth nearly 30 percent more than similar properties located inland.

To ensure that we continue to reap the benefits of clean water, we must not take this vital natural resource for granted. Despite the progress of the past generation, America's waters are still at risk.

Yet, over the past two years, Congressional leaders launched an unprecedented assault on public health and environmental protection, including an attempt to roll back the Clean Water Act. Those reckless actions ignore the experience of the people of the Rouge River -- that safe, clean water is essential to our lives, our communities, and our economy.

President Clinton stood firm against the attack on public health and environmental protections, and he has taken aggressive action to protect water quality. Early on, this Administration moved aggressively to work with the people of the Great Lakes States to protect the Lakes -- bringing people together, finding solutions that work for the people of this region. The result was the Great Lakes Water Quality Initiative, which for the first time ever puts forth tough, consistent standards to control toxic pollution throughout the Lakes.

The Administration is working to ensure that communities like this one have the resources they need to keep raw sewage and toxic chemicals out of rivers and off beaches. We have called on Congress to pass a new Safe Drinking Water Act, including, for the first time ever, a revolving loan fund to help communities upgrade their drinking water systems and protect the sources of their drinking water. Congressman Dingell has been a leader in the effort for a new, stronger Safe Drinking Water Act.

The people of the Rouge River are doing a great job, recognizing the importance of clean, healthy water and taking action to protect it. The President will continue to take those actions necessary to protect this vital natural resource. To protect our health, our communities, and our economy, we must protect our water.