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Air, water quality achievements guide march to EPA milestone

Sources: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; CP staff

EPA has kicked off a year-long celebration leading to observance of a 50th anniversary, December 2, 2020. “Since the agency’s inception under the leadership of the late Administrator William Ruckelshaus, EPA staff have worked tirelessly to clean up our air, water, and land for the American people,” says Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Together, we have achieved significant milestones in support of our mission to protect human health and the environment.”

Among major agency accomplishments, he cites:

  • Cleaner air. From 1970 to 2018, the combined emissions of six criteria pollutants dropped by 74 percent; the U.S. economy grew by 275 percent; and, Americans drove more miles while population and energy use increased.
  • Improved water quality. More than 40 percent of the nation’s drinking water systems failed to meet even the most basic health standards in the early 1970s. Today, more than 92 percent of community water systems meet all health-based standards.

In the wake of elevated concern about pollution and the April 1970 Earth Day launch, EPA was established to consolidate into one agency a variety of federal responsibilities, including research, monitoring, standard setting, plus enforcement activities to ensure environmental protection and safeguard human health.