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Guest commentary: Rolling back clean water rule harms us all

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I am a founder and co-owner of the Epiphany Farms Hospitality Group, a business venture that runs three restaurants and a catering and event planning business.

We supply these businesses from our livestock and produce farming operations on 100 acres of Central Illinois farmland. Today, we employ more than 200 people. 

At Epiphany Farms, our values are integral to our business model. We strive to create a farming and food-service system that is both sustainable and regenerative, and that produces high quality, healthful food, while benefiting the soil and land.

We seek to co-exist with nature and to enhance the ecosystem so that we leave the land in a better place than we found it.

Clean water and healthy rivers are central to this model and to all of our businesses. Without it, we would fail. To have clean water we have to protect its source — the small streams and wetlands that feed larger streams and rivers.

They are the source of the drinking water for 1 in 3 Americans and 1 in 10 Illinoisans, and of much of the water that supplies the nation’s industries. If we don’t protect these sources, we won’t have clean, safe water.

Two years ago, Epiphany Farms joined a campaign to help gain passage of a new EPA regulation called the Clean Water Rule. The rule provided needed clarity on which streams and wetlands are subject to the protections of the Clean Water Act, including the watershed of our farm properties.

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The campaign was successful, and the federal Environmental Protection Agency finalized the rule in 2016. We were happy and believed that we could move on in reliance on a rule that would safeguard two million miles of streams and 20 million acres of wetlands. So much has changed since then.

The Trump administration has announced its intent to repeal the Clean Water Rule, ignoring the 800,000 Americans (including 32,000 Illinoisans) who wrote in support of the rule. At the time of its passage, a poll showed that 79 percent of Americans were in favor of the Clean Water Rule. As was done two years ago, groups and businesses are speaking out against this assault and in favor of clean water.

Like river systems, we are all connected in a globally interdependent society. We need everyone’s help to build sustainable and resilient food systems, including the government’s. The Clean Water Rule recognizes our interconnectedness and the need to protect that which connects and sustains us all. A clean and healthy water system is paramount to raising and feeding our next generation.

The Trump Administration should leave the Clean Water Rule alone and allow the EPA to get on with its mission of protecting human health and the environment. From this, we all benefit.

Myszka is founder and co-owner of the Epiphany Farms Hospitality Group. 

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