Environmental Protection Agency chief Andrew Wheeler on Wednesday said unsafe water, drought, and plastic trash in the oceans are "the largest and most immediate environmental and public health issues affecting the world right now," not climate change.
He made his remarks in Washington on World Water Day, saying he is frustrated because "water issues often take a backseat" to larger discussions about global warming. "Most of the threats from climate change are 50 to 75 years out," Wheeler said. "What we need to do is make sure that the people who are dying today from lack of having drinking water in Third World countries, that problem is addressed." In an interview with ABC News last month, Wheeler said climate change is not a "crisis."
Speaking with CBS News on Wednesday, Wheeler said the United States has "the safest drinking water in the world," and "92 percent of the water everyday meets all the EPA requirements for safe drinking water." Regarding the lead-contaminated water in cities like Flint, Michigan; Newark, New Jersey; and Baltimore, Wheeler said the EPA is "working to update a number of regulations, one of which is our lead and copper rule, which takes a look at the pipes. ... We're looking at what we can do to require regular testing for schools and daycares, so that would be part of that regulation when it comes out later this year." Catherine Garcia