The Clean Water Act is now 45 years old, born in the U.S. Congress on October 18, 1972. Sometime before that date, the river of my childhood – the Roanoke River in southwestern Virginia – had been declared a fire hazard because of pollution.
I learned to water-ski on that river, or rather on one of the manmade lakes along its winding path. It was 1965 and I remember one of those skiing lessons in particular. Dad was the spotter, and his friend George was the driver. I jumped in the water and waited for the handles of the ski rope. When the tips of my skis were up and my butt down, I yelled, “forward!” As the boat began pulling me, I saw banana peels and “floaters” – human waste – drifting past. I was ten years old, and it gave me the heebie-jeebies. “Hit it,” I shouted, now doubly motivated to get up and out of the water.
America now has perhaps the best wastewater treatment in the world. . . .