Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Statement by the President Upon Signing a Bill for the Control of Pollution in the Hudson River Basin.

September 26, 1966

THREE WEEKS AGO, in West Virginia, I said that mankind is in a race with catastrophe.

I was not speaking of war or plague or famine. I was speaking of a global water shortage that even now is making itself felt.

Since the birth of Christ, man's population has increased 13-fold. Yet the amount of water available to us has remained the Same.

But let me qualify that last statement. The amount of water available to us has remained the same, but the amount of water we can use is diminishing at an alarming rate.

Nature isn't doing this. We are. By our carelessness, by our neglect, and by our blind rush of progress, we are fouling one of the most precious resources we possess: our rivers.

We could hardly find a better example than the Hudson River. For this river, rich in history and folklore, and once rich in natural beauty, has suffered a century of abuse and neglect.

--Two billion gallons of sewage are dumped into it every day.

--Refuse and decay line its shores.

--Blight has barred the people from enjoying its heritage.

Early in our history, men lived with this river. For 200 years it flowed clean and beautiful, providing transportation, food, recreation, and inspiration.

But we cut ourselves off from this birthright. Railroads were built on both banks. Piers and factories littered the shoreline. Municipal and industrial wastes have fouled the water. Towns have turned inward, shunning the river, too often using it as a dumping ground for abandoned cars and other debris of our civilization.

Well, this day--September 26th--marks a turning point. Because this Congress and this administration believe that technology should serve man, rather than intimidate him, we are signing a bill that will begin the task of purifying the waters of the Hudson.

This bill makes possible a truly cooperative approach to the job of making the Hudson a source of pleasure and beauty.

It marks the beginning of major efforts to clean up the river; to provide pleasant beaches along its shores, which can offer relief from the pressures of urban living for millions of Americans.

Neither Federal nor State action alone would be adequate to this task. It will require the best efforts of all of us--including the towns and industries along the shores.

I believe we are up to the challenge. This bill gives us the tools to meet it.

I believe it begins a new day for one of America's great rivers. I hope it points the way for all our rivers.

Note: As enacted, the bill directing the Secretary of the Interior "to cooperate with the States of New York and New Jersey on a program to develop, preserve, and restore the resources of the Hudson River and its shores..." is Public Law 89-605 (80 Stat. 847).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Statement by the President Upon Signing a Bill for the Control of Pollution in the Hudson River Basin. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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