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Clinton: Clean America's Waters

The Clinton administration is making a comprehensive to-do list for cleaning up the nation's most polluted rivers, lakes and streams.

In his weekly radio address Saturday, President Clinton said the Environmental Protection Agency plans to work with states "to assess the state of all our waterways, to identify the most polluted waters and to develop strong, enforceable plans to restore them to health."

Mr. Clinton said the plan is a continuation of work begun in 1972 with passage of the federal Clean Water Act. The goal of the latest cleanup plan is water clean enough for swimming or fishing, he said.

Despite enormous progress under that landmark law, the president said, about 40 percent of the nation's waterways don't meet the swimming or fishing test.

"Parents have a right to expect that our recreational waters are safe for their children to swim in," Mr. Clinton said. "All Americans have a right to expect we're doing all we can to clean up our waterways."

States and the EPA have already identified about 20,000 polluted waterways that fail to meet national water quality standards, EPA Administrator Carol Browner said. For each, states must produce individual cleanup plans, she said.

The list includes about 300,000 miles of rivers and shoreline and close to 5 million acres of lakes, Browner said at a briefing for reporters.

"More than 90 percent of the American population lives within 10 miles of one of these polluted bodies of water," she said.

Although states are responsible for making their lists and deciding how to fix pollution problems, the EPA will step in to enforce federal water standards if states fall short, Browner said.

The public has 60 days to comment on the EPA's proposed rules, which are likely to take effect later this year.

Mr. Clinton also used his radio address to take another swipe at the GOP-passed $792 billion tax cut plan, which he said could force America to close its national parks.

The president has promised to veto the package once Congress sends it to him after its August recess. He contends that such a big tax cut will force Congress to make deep cuts in a variety of programs, including many that benefit the environment.

"Their budget plan, because it contains such a large tax cut, would actually threaten our environment because it would require big cuts in environmental enforcement, letting toxic waste dumps fester, even shutting down national parks," the president said.

Meanwhile, in their response, Republicans continue to tout their tax-cut plan, saying the bill Congress recently passed would help more Americans save for retirement.

Ohio Congressman Rob Portman said in the weekly Republican radio address that the bill would result in "more retirement security for millions of workers."

But the package is veto-bait once Congress sends the bill to the president. Mr. Clinton hasaid he won't deal on tax cuts until Congress agrees to first pay down the national debt and shore up Social Security and Medicare.

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