Author: Edward

The Clean Water Act is a major challenge for the U.S.

The Clean Water Act is a major challenge for the U.S.

Editorial: 50 years later, the Clean Water Act is under assault in D.C., and the rest of the country

The last time the U.S. government looked at water pollution, it issued the Clean Water Act in 1972, according to Smithsonian Magazine. The act has grown a bit since then, but its focus is on protecting those who live near polluted waterways, particularly from pollution from industrial, sewage disposal and sewage treatment plants, as well as runoff from farms. Yet more than a decade after the passage of the Clean Water Act, the American Water Works Association, an industry trade group, has told Congress that it will “be a major challenge for us to fully implement the law” in the future.

The Act is the product of the 1970s battle over the future of industrial pollution, which has come increasingly under fire as scientists document the dangers, and activists demand action. But the Act has also inspired a variety of laws and regulations aimed at controlling the most severe pollution from sewage treatment plants, and other major polluters.

“Today we have to contend with a much larger, more complex, more dynamic and more urgent problem than at any time since 1972,” wrote James Watson, executive director of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), back in 1995. “The environmental movement has grown rapidly, creating a demand for new laws and new regulations.”

“It’s time for the president to take executive action and issue an executive order to implement the law,” said a group of 11 environmental lawyers, academics and law professors, who have written a letter to President Bush in the Washington Post. “Every major polluter in this country is subject to some regulation of the Clean Water Act. It’s time for a comprehensive, national enforcement strategy to ensure we stop all forms of pollution.”

The Clean Water Act was originally a 1972 bill that would establish two independent agencies – one to address industrial pollution, and one to deal with sewage pollution. It would also create guidelines on how to clean up water and set standards for “best possible” treatment processes, on how to handle water that’s near urban centers, and rules for what pollutants could be discharged from private sewage treatment plants.

But as the bill moved through Congress, Congress left it up to the executive branch to craft regulations

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