02/12/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Clean Water Act Challenged By Mining Industry

The Clean Water Act is designed to maintain and restore the physical, biological and chemical integrity of the nation's water supply. One of the ways this is accomplished is by preventing pollution sources from entering the water system. Today, the Supreme Court will be hearing arguments regarding the re-interpretation of the Clean Water Act as supported by the Bush Administration and Governor Sarah Palin.

The administration's desire is for the Supreme Court to allow the mining industry the right to dump mine tailings into rivers, lakes and streams. Governor Palin is a proponent of this cause in hopes that a large mining boom in Alaska will erupt. Alaska's Pebble Mine is a proposed gold mine who would benefit from a ruling disregarding the Clean Water Act. Pebble Mine would operate above Alaska's Bristol Bay, which abounds with sockeye salmon.

Mine tailings are waste. They are the left-overs after metal separation has occurred. Once the extractions are finished, the rocks remaining are often full of contaminates like arsenic, lead and cadmium. These toxins are prone to wind dispersion and water erosion, and can be found miles from a site. Since these toxicants can last for decades, sites affected can not develop normal soil structure or establish proper plant cover. In short, the land and wildlife are poisoned.

Obviously, if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the mining industry and against the Clean Water Act, wildlife and humans are headed for a serious risk. Attorney Tom Waldo, who is representing Earthjustice in the fight, hopes to protect America's water. Let's hope the judges can see the bigger picture on this issue and not just short term financial gain because we need our water, our fish, and a bright forecast for the future.