While Environmental Protection Agency Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler was introducing the new rule that will vastly scale back federal water protections, Matthew Starr was preparing to take water samples from the Neuse River.
Starr, one of two official keepers of the North Carolina river, already has a hard job. As a protector of the Neuse, a body of water that has been judged “ most endangered ” and the nation’s seventh-most polluted river by the environmental group American Rivers, Starr contends daily with pollution from human and animal waste, chemicals, real estate development, storm runoff, coal ash, and wastewater treatment plants. Climate change, which has resulted in more intense and frequent storms, has intensified the river’s challenges.
With the new water rule, which the EPA released on Tuesday, Starr’s job of measuring and cleaning up water contamination in the Neuse is about to get exponentially harder.
Consider what he calls the “poop side of the problem.” In the past few months, Starr has spent much of his time measuring E. coli levels that have increased after raw human feces and urine was released into the Neuse from wastewater treatment plants and sanitary sewers after Hurricane Florence. […]