The annual list from the environmental group American Rivers identifies waterways across the country that are under threat from factors such as legislative rollbacks proposed in Congress and energy development. The Potomac River topped this year's list.
According to Irvin, "There are measures in Congress that would roll back its [Clean Water Act] protections and erase 40 years of progress, in the Potomac River and rivers and streams all over the country," he said. "Most Americans would be appalled at the idea that we are going to turn back the clock to a time when rivers were so polluted you couldn't touch them or they were on fire."
The spread of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is an emerging threat to water quality across the country, says Irvin. "There's a threat from natural gas development and fracking in the Grand River in Ohio and the Hoback in Wyoming. There's a threat to water quality as chemicals are injected into groundwater and the disposal of the fluids is not regulated, and also a threat to water quantity because massive amounts of water are used."
"The Clean Water Act was intended to bring about uniform federal regulation. But unfortunately, natural gas development enjoys a unique exemption from both the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act."