If proposed cuts to the federal Environmental Protection Agency occur, the Schuylkill River could return to the "bad old days," a group of protesters said Tuesday.

Lela Garner of the group Defend our Future said the Schuylkill River has been in trouble going back to an 1896, when this letter to the editor was printed in the Philadelphia Inquirer: "The fluid with which I am writing I have labeled Schuylkill ink.  This concoction is from the settlings of water drawn from the spigot of the first and second story of our house, and it makes a very fair ink."

Without federal oversight, said historian Adam Levine, Philadelphia drinking water could become hazardous.

"It's clear that the EPA has played a big role in making the river usable again, making the river a place where people want to ride a bicycle, run along, even row on," he said.

Environmental groups fear that — without continued EPA oversight — the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers could again become contaminated. They're urging federal lawmakers not to cut funding for clean-water regulations.