New Orleans’ own Lisa Jackson, EPA Administrator, was in town yesterday for the Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition and Conference. Elizabeth Shephard, CSO of LifeCity, had the great honor to shake her hand and thank her for the incredible leadership she has brought to our country. As Jackson said yesterday, we in New Orleans are “on the front lines” when it comes to climate change and environmental justice, but our opportunities are just as great as our challenges. With all the water resources we have in New Orleans, we can learn to leverage our waterways for enjoyment and economic development. Read below to learn more about Lisa Jackson’s visit to New Orleans
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator and New Orleans native Lisa Jackson told a gathering of water environment professionals on Monday that the Clean Water Act has kept tens of billions of pounds of sewage, chemicals and trash out of the nation’s waterways during the past 40 years. The federal law, which includes regulations governing drinking water and requiring improvements in the environmental health of rivers, lakes and seas, has dramatically improved both human health and the environment, she said.
“Urban waterways have gone from wastelands to centers of redevelopment and activity, and we have doubled the number of American waters that meet safety standards for swimming and fishing,” Jackson said in a keynote speech at the Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition and Conference.
Jackson urged the engineers and scientists attending the meeting to tell their neighbors and clients about the benefits resulting from the federal law, which was approved 40 years ago this month. The conference, with more than 18,000 attendees and 900 business exhibits, runs through Wednesday at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
“Today 92 percent of American’s have round-the-clock access to safe, clean drinking water that meets national health standards, and more than two-thirds of America’s assessed waterways meet water quality standards,” she said.
But challenges remain that require increased enforcement of the law, largely in cooperation with private business, including how to provide the remaining 8 percent of U.S. residents with clean drinking water, and how to bring the one-third of the nation’s waterways still polluted up to federal standards, she said.
“Urban waterways have gone from wastelands to centers of redevelopment and activity.” —EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson
And the nation also faces a challenge from decaying water infrastructure, as outlined in a recent report by the American Society of Civil Engineers that rated both drinking water and wastewater infrastructure at D minus, she said.
“The U.S. population is projected to grow 55 percent between 2000 and 2050, which will put added strain on water resources,” Jackson said.
In recent years, scientists also have better defined the harm caused by nitrogen and phosphorus pollution on streams, rivers, lakes and coastal waters, including to the nation’s economy, she said, while climate change also will challenge the nation’s water resources with warmer temperatures, resulting in increased sea level rise, stronger storms, more droughts and even changes to the chemistry of water that might affect fisheries.
The nation also faces new challenges from unconventional pollutants called emerging contaminants that scientists only now have the technology to detect, she said.
The innovative technology and services being developed by this country’s water environment industry to deal with existing and emerging environmental threats also represent a potential boon to the nation’s economy, Jackson said. The Department of Commerce has found the nation’s environmental industry generated about $312 billion in revenue in 2010, employing nearly 1.7 million people. The industry also includes 61,000 small businesses, she said.
Water equipment and chemicals used to treat water represent about 37 percent of the nation’s environmental technology exports, equal to almost $10 billion in export dollars in 2009, Jackson said.
Before her speech, Jackson joined Francisco Sanchez, Commerce Department undersecretary for international trade, in announcing the availability of a web-based portal for environmental technology exporters, part of the two departments’ Environmental Technology Export Initiative, which was launched in May.
The new website, www.export.gov/envirotech, or www.epa.gov/international/exports, provides information on all federal programs that support environmental technology exports, including market research, information on financing and a catalog of U.S. producers of green technology, Sanchez said.