Small business owner supports EPA “Waters of the USA” rule

The Environmental Protection Agency has put forth a “Waters of the USA” rule which, of course, has caused some controversy with folks who believe that businesses would be better off with no regulations to protect the nation’s water sources.

Eric Henry of TS Designs and a member of the American Sustainable Business Council testified this morning on Capitol Hill in support of the EPA’s proposed rules.  Below is his testimony.


June 11, 2014

Mr. Chairman, thank you for your time.

My name is Eric Henry. I’m from Burlington, North Carolina, where I have lived for over 50 years and had a business for over 30 years.  The t-shirt and jeans I am wearing today were made completely in North Carolina using North Carolina cotton and our Cotton of the Carolinas supply chain. I understand and value the importance of clean water to both my business and community, and I hope you will recognize that protecting this resource is invaluable to businesses like mine.

Burlington used to be a very large textile town – home to companies like Burlington Industries, which was founded in 1923 and was once one of the largest textile companies in the country.

I remember growing up seeing the multi color soap suds on Willowbrook Creek right across the street from my house. I also remember the much larger Haw River which powered a lot of the original textile mills in our community – that got polluted to the point where the river was like a toilet bowl where communities could dump their commercial and residential waste.

Today the Haw River is part of the rebuilding of Alamance County. Old mill communities like Saxapahaw and Glencoe, communities that had been dying out, are now becoming the most sought out places to live, work and play. Much of this is due to EPA’s Clean Water regulations.

As a small business owner who started a t-shirt business over thirty years ago while attending North Carolina State University, I have witnessed firsthand the positive changes that come from bringing clean water back to our community.

My t-shirt reflects our triple bottom line values of a successful business based on People, Planet, and Profit. This particular shirt is Cotton of the Carolinas – we go “dirt to shirt,” covering every step of the production process from farm to factory, supporting 500 American jobs in a completely transparent supply chain spanning 600 miles. One other advantage of being part of a t-shirt business – you get to wear your product to hearings like this instead of high priced suits.

As a business owner, with a daily focus on meeting payroll and growing sales, I appreciate the value that my government partner brings to the table – the long-term view of clean water and clean air.

I believe we have an obligation not just to protect the water for the communities we live in today, but to ensure that future generations will have access to clean water.  If protecting future generations truly matters to you, this is one way you can show it.

This is not a unique view among business owners. In independent polling commissioned by the American Sustainable Business Council (, 92 percent of small business owners supported the idea that there should be regulation to protect air and water from pollution by toxic chemicals. And 47 percent of that sample was self-identified Republicans.

Clear national water protections are critical to making waterways safe for families to swim in, fish from, and depend upon for a drinking water supply. They’ll ensure that the playing field stays level, and that a business like mine will be playing by the same rules as everyone else’s. That’s fairer, and it’s simpler.

Some people only see the higher cost of cleaner water and the impact to their bottom line. They miss the longer term view. What happens when water is polluted? You only need look at the impact of spills in the Elk River in West Virginia, and concerns that that spill could have spread downriver into Kentucky. You only need look at the recent spill in the Dan River in North Carolina, where tens of thousands of tons of coal ash were discharged into the river.

The companies responsible for those spills don’t benefit from them – the Dan River spill is costing Duke Energy millions of dollars, and the company responsible for the Elk River spill, Freedom Industries, filed for bankruptcy. Companies like mine, which rely on a consistent source of clean water, certainly don’t benefit. The people in these communities, the ones who can’t shower or bathe or wash their clothes for days, they don’t benefit.

And our economy doesn’t benefit. The Elk River spill cost West Virginia’s economy $19 million a day, according to researchers at Marshall University. By contrast, the clean water rule you are discussing at today’s hearing would have between $388 million to $514 million in annual benefits, compared with only $162 million to $278 million in costs.  There’s a strong economic case for these regulations, not against them.

We need to be the world leader in setting the bar for a better world, not just one with a cheaper, more polluted future. That is why I am asking you to support the EPA’s move to protect our waterways. The people you represent – and the companies they rely on for jobs and economic growth – will thank you.


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