EPA chief Andrew Wheeler has called unsafe drinking water a global crisis.
Wheeler said the Trump administration wanted to do more to address water issues that affect up to 2.5 billion people around the world, according to the United Nations, and infrastructure issues that could cost the United States. United up to 700 billion dollars.
He said many people will blame the problems on climate change, even if those impacts are decades away.
“My frustration with the current dialogue on environmental issues is that water issues often take a back seat. It’s time to change that,” he said in his remarks Wednesday at the Wilson Center.
“We have to do something about the millions of people who die every year from a lack of clean water and sanitation. We have to do something about marine debris. And I believe we can do that while tackling other challenges that loom on the horizon.”
Wheeler said human activities are contributing to global warming and the impact of climate change, but the administration disagrees with some of the recent reports and studies that highlight the urgency of reducing fuel use. fossils. In an interview with ABC News Live last month, he said the administration was working on proposals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but he did not view climate change as a “crisis.”
“We have a thousand children dying every day around the world because they don’t have clean water. It’s a, it’s a crisis that I think we can solve,” Wheeler said. in an interview with CBS News on Wednesday, citing United Nations statistics.
“Most of the threats from climate change are 50 to 75 years away. What we need to do is make sure that the people who are dying today because of lack of clean water in third world countries, that problem is solved. .”
But the Green New Deal proposal sparking debate on Capitol Hill is based on a United Nations report that some severe impacts of climate change could become “irreversible” within the next 20 years. The timeline has become a call to arms for climate change activists and Democrats who say the country must change dramatically to eliminate the use of fossil fuels that contribute to global warming.
While Wheeler has addressed issues associated with unsafe drinking water around the world, the EPA’s jurisdiction is primarily national.
Communities across the country are dealing with aging water infrastructure and contamination from sources such as chemicals or lead. The crisis in Flint, Michigan is one of the most publicized examples, but other cities like Baltimore and Newark, New Jersey have faced lead-tainted water.
Wheeler said the EPA works with state and local officials in those communities, but overall 92% of water systems in the United States are safe.
Many local officials also say they are already experiencing the impacts of climate change, particularly when it comes to flooding, and are already working to make cities more resilient.
The EPA’s top enforcement issue recently told members of Congress that one of the agency’s biggest concerns is the number of drinking water systems that violate safety requirements or use obsolete infrastructure.