Remarks by The President at Safe Drinking Water Event

Office of the Press Secretary
(San Francisco, California)

For Immediate Release August 11, 1998


Harry Tracy Water Filtration Plant
San Bruno, California

10:22 A.M. PDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Good morning. IaskedLorraine if any of her children were here, and she said they were all here. Iwould like to ask the members of your family to stand. Everybody inLorraine's family, stand. Good for you -- there are your children, yourhusband. Thank you all. (Applause.) I'd say they were worth fightingfor.

Good morning, everyone. Thank you for braving thisbeautiful,but rather warm California sunshine to participate in this event. Thankyou,Mr. Mayor. Thank you, Ann Caen, for your service and reference to Herb.Thank you, Lt. Governor Gray Davis, for your support for the environment.Thank you to Superintendent Paul Mazza and the members of the facilityhere,all of the people who work here. I'd like to thank them for what they dotohelp improve the lives of the people in this area. Thank you very much.(Applause.) I know we have members of the San Matao Board of Supervisorsandother -- perhaps other officials here.

And I'd like to say a special word of appreciation toCongressman Tom Lantos and especially for the reference he made to theterrible events a few days ago in Kenya and Tanzania. We now have -- astheCongressman mentioned, the American citizens who were killed there arecominghome, and Hillary and I will go to Andrews Air Force Base to meet that sadhomecoming plane on Thursday. In addition to that, you should know now,over200 -- well over 200 African citizens have been killed and almost 5,000injured. There are over 500 people still in the hospital in Nairobi inKenya.

I think it's important for me to tell you that wehave worked very closely with the governments of Kenya andTanzania in, first of all, determining and finding those who werekilled and those who were injured and now in their treatment.And also they are working very closely with us in our attempts tofind those who are responsible.

And I know this is terribly frightening to peoplewhen something like this happens, but in an ever more open worldwhere people are traveling more and where more information andtechnology and, unfortunately, weaponry are available acrossnational lines, and more and more information through theInternet, I think it is important that we all, as Americans, senda clear signal to the world that we are not going to back awayfrom our involvement with other people, and we are not going toback away from our opposition to terrorism. It makes us morevulnerable as targets because we have taken the toughest standaround the world against terrorism. Now is the time to beardown, not back up, on that. And that is my determination. And Ibelieve that's what the American people support. And I hope allof you will. (Applause.)

Let me say that today is a happy day because itmarks another step forward in our attempt to bring the Americanpeople the kind of life I believe that all hard working citizensdeserve. It is tempting because our own country has enjoyed somuch prosperity and a declining crime rate, declining welfarerolls and declining other social problems, rising wages.Particularly in a place like California, where you had such atough time for so many years, it's tempting at a good time likethis for everybody to say, okay, we went through all those toughtimes, now we've got good times; Mr. President, leave us alone,we want to relax, we want to enjoy this, we want to chill out. Ithink that's what some people say.

I think that would be a mistake. Why? Because allyou have to do is pick up the newspaper any day or watch the newsany night, and we see how fast the world continues to change --always changing -- the way we work, the way we live, thechallenges we face, the way we relate to each other and the restof the world. At a time like this we should take our prosperityand the self-confidence it has given us as a country and say,what are the challenges of the future and how can we use thismoment of opportunity because we're doing well to take care ofthe long-term challenges to our children's future and to makeAmerica what it ought to be.

We have to, for example, save Social Security forthe 21st century, before all the baby boomers retire, and imposeunbearable strains on the system as it's now constituted. Wehave to make our elementary and secondary schools the best in theworld, just as our higher education system is now. We have toprove that we can provide affordable and quality health care toall people, which is why I've fought so hard for this patients'bill of rights.

We have to expand opportunity into inner-city areasand rural areas and Native American reservations where there hasbeen no recovery yet. We have to prove we can live together asone America as we get more diverse. We have to, as Tom Lantossaid, fulfill our responsibilities in the world, because wecannot grow and prosper at home unless we are also strong abroadin pursuit of peace and freedom and prosperity.

But one thing we clearly have to do is to prove thatwe can grow our economy while we improve the environment andpublic health. The two things must never be seen in conflict.When they are, we pay a price that is terrible, first in theenvironment, second in public health, and eventually in thehealth of our economy.

And one example of that is what we're here to talkabout today: the importance of our drinking water. It may havebeen gold that brought people to California 150 years ago, butwater has enabled them to stay here and enabled this state togrow and expand to the point where now California comprises 13percent of our entire nation's population. It may be that theclear water that flows down the Sierra slopes and wasmiraculously, a long time ago, through pipes and channels takeninto a reservoir here to provide water for this area was an evengreater discovery than the gold. I think clearly it was.

Few states are blessed with such a supply of freshwater and none have done more to put it to productive use thanCalifornia. Still, although there are problems, and I understandthere are still disputes over water, I have seen in my ownadministration how, by working patiently together with differentgroups, cooperation can win out to protect this vital resource sothere's enough for the farms, for the wildlife and for thepeople.

Now, we also have to work to assure the quality aswell as the supply. That's what we're here to talk about today.Mrs. Ross told you about what happened to her family and othersin the Silicon Valley. Five years ago, the citizens of Milwaukeefound themselves with 400,000 people sick, dozens of people deadbecause a microbe called cryptosporidium had contaminated theirwater supply.

The Vice President and I have worked hard to dealwith this issue, to strengthen the Safe Drinking Water Act, tohelp communities upgrade treatment plants and to zero in oncontaminants posing the greatest threat. We required moreindustries to publicly disclose the chemicals they release intothe air and water. The results of that have been quiteremarkable. The factories required to provide this information-- listen to this, just the community right to know -- thefactories required to provide the information about the chemicalsthey release into the air and water have reduced their toxicreleases by almost half. That's what right to know can do.(Applause.)

Now, today we take another important step to empowercommunities with information. Beginning next year, under a newEPA community right to know rule I'm announcing today, watersystems across our country must give their customers regularreports on the water flowing from their taps; to tell consumerswhere the water comes from, whether it meets federal standards,as well as the likely source of any contaminants and theirpotential health effects.

Thanks to these reports, contamination in the waterwill no longer be invisible to the eye. Families will see at aglance whether their drinking water is safe. When it is not,utilities will have a crystal clear incentive to clean it up, andcitizens like Lorraine Ross will not have to fly blind. Theywill be able to come up all over America, and they will know whatthey have to work with and what they must work toward.

Safe water for our children is something allAmericans agree on. This should not be a partisan issue. We'veimproved the quality of drinking water so much over the years, infact, because of a bipartisan effort. And yet, there is inCongress today a disturbing trend to break up what ishistorically, at least for the last 30 years, been a bipartisanconsensus on the environment.

If there is ever an area where we need progress, notpartisanship, it is to ensure the purity and safety of ourenvironment. But there is a question about that. So far,Congress has refused to fund my Clean Water Action Plan thatwould help to restore the -- listen to this -- the 40 percent ofour waters that are still too polluted for fishing and swimming.

In February, I proposed to add 100 national andhistoric sites across our country to our endowment of protectedareas. One of the things I'm proudest of that our administrationhas done is that we have protected more land in perpetuity thanany administration in history except those of the two Roosevelts.And now we have 100 more sites -- places like Bain Island, ahaven for endangered wildlife in San Francisco Bay; and the gravesite of John Muir, perhaps the greatest preservationist of alltime.

Believe it or not, the money has been appropriatedfor all these sites, but under the law, once they're selected thecongressional leaders must approve its release. So far, thatapproval has not been forthcoming for months and months. Today,for the sites in California and throughout the country, again Iask Congress to release the funds already approved so we canpreserve these precious places. (Applause.)

We need progress and not partisanship in our effortsto avoid the degradation of our ocean waters. We had a big oceanconference out here on the Monterey Peninsula not very long ago.And we need it in our efforts to combat climate change and to doAmerica's part.

Just yesterday the Vice President announced new datashowing that the money of July was the hottest month everrecorded since climate records have been kept on Earth. This isnot some fly-by-night phenomenon -- the nine hottest years everrecorded have occurred in the last 11 years; '97 was the hottestyear ever measured; every month in '98 has been hotter than thepreceding month in '97.

And we need to work together. Yet many in Congresswant to cut the common-sense technology, market-orientedinitiatives I have proposed to reduce our greenhouse gasemissions and to do America's part. We can grow this economy,reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve the environment. If wedo not do so, at some point in the not too distant future ourchildren will be living in an economy that is much reducedbecause we didn't do right by the environment. And we shouldnever forget that. (Applause.)

Let me finally say that one of the things that Ihave found most frustrating in trying to create a bipartisanconsensus on the environment is that I keep finding in all thesebills that are sent to me legislative gimmicks called riders,which have nothing to do with the bills that pass, where thelittle rider is designed to weaken some environmental protectionthe United States has. Lawmakers have attached language tounrelated bills to cripple wildlife protection and cut through anAlaskan wildlife refuge with a $30-million road. These back-doorassaults must also stop. We shouldn't squander our bounty forshort-term gain.

Now, the people of California now this -- fromMonterey Bay to Lake Tahoe, people who haven't always seen eye toeye on any political issue are working together to preserve theirwater and land. We are rebuilding at the grass-roots level aconsensus for preserving our environment, advancing the publichealth as we grow our economy.

That message needs to get back to Washington,because every American has to come to grips with this fundamentalchallenge. We can never create the 21st century America we wantfor our children until we do not think of economic growth asdivorced from the preservation of the environment and the publichealth. They must be seen as absolutely part of one, indivisibleeffort to create the good life for the American people.

If we do that, and if we fulfill ourresponsibilities, then I'm convinced that for the children herein this audience, America's best days are still ahead. Thank youand God bless you. (Applause.)

What's New - August 1998

The Workforce Investment Act of 1998

Patients' Bill of Rights

Safe Drinking Water Event

Those Who Lost their Lives in Kenya and Tanzania

Summer Jobs Event

Military Strikes In Afghanistan and Sudan

Welfare Reform

Military Strikes In Afghanistan and Sudan

Brady Law Event

Drunk Driving Statistics

A Guide For Safe Schools

35th Anniversary of The March on Washington

Opening of Education Roundtable

Education Roundtable Discussion

U.S. Leadership in Information Technology

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