Environmental Justice / Water Quality

Photos: Life in 9 American cities before the EPA

New York, NY: The George Washington Bridge in heavy smog. This is the view towards the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. (Photo credit: U.S. National Archives)

WASHINGTON, DC — “Nearly five decades ago President Richard Nixon asked in his State of the Union address, ‘shall we surrender to our surroundings, or shall we make our peace with nature and begin to make reparations for the damage we have done to our air, to our land, and to our water?’

Later that year, he created the Environmental Protection Agency to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land we live on. It was also created to standardize regulations to ensure safety and security of the American people regardless of where they live. It was a critical moment as local and state governments didn’t (and still do not) have the capacity, incentive, or resources to address issues like cross-state pollution.

As a result, the EPA has been the lifeline for communities across America. After all, nobody wants to swim in the rivers that have been contaminated with industrial waste or raw sewage, live in a city filled with smog, or have to evacuate due to a threat of a poisonous gas leak. These conditions were actually real threats to American cities before the EPA and were one of the main reasons for its existence.”


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