"There is little doubt that very small trace amounts of natural and synthetic drugs are showing up in waterways in some parts of the country. For instance, a stream study by the U.S. Geological Survey states: “Results show that a broad range of chemicals found in residential, industrial, and agricultural wastewaters commonly occurs in mixtures at low concentrations in streams in the United...
Quotes on Clean Water Act
"Celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of CWA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claimed, 'Today, two-thirds of the nation's surveyed waters are safe for fishing and swimming.' In nearly the same bureaucratic breath, EPA announced that '57 percent of our waters are unacceptably polluted.' Classic Dilbert-style doublespeak. The truth is that EPA does not have a clue about the quality of the nation's waters."
"So here we have a person who comes to the United States and commits crimes of selling dope and the government asks me to put him in prison for 10 months. And then we have an American citizen who buys land, pays for it with his own money, and he moves some sand from one end to the other and the government wants me to give him 63 months in prison. Now, if that isn't our system gone crazy, I don't know what is. And I'm not going to do it."
"Section 404 of the Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of pollutants into navigable waters without a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Under this section, pollutants include natural materials such as rock, sand, and dirt. 'Navigable waters' have been broadly defined to include dry washes and remote wetlands.
The average applicant hoping to develop his or her own wetlands will spend 788 days and $271,596 working with federal authorities to do so. In pursuing environmental purity, the principle that one may use his property as he best sees fit has vanished."
"For years, the 1972 Clean Water Act has been misused in the name of protecting Americas waters and wetlands. The statute’s original limitation that its key provisions only apply to navigable waters was largely ignored. Instead, the law was broadly applied to a wide variety of circumstances, including remote and inconsequential drainage ditches or temporary puddles and even to completely dry land.
The statute’s complex and costly provisions interfered with the economic use of the lands it encompassed, including farming and ranching operations, construction of housing and other buildings, and domestic oil and gas production."
"Rapanos involved the scope of the term 'navigable waters' in the Clean Water Act. The Act defines 'navigable waters' as 'the waters of the United States, including the territorial seas.' The Corps of Engineers issued regulations to include not only traditional interstate waters that are actually navigable, like the Potomac River, but all interstate waters and wetlands. Not content with this broad scope, the Corps also included '[a]ll other waters such as intrastate lakes, rivers, streams (including intermittent streams), mudflats, sandflats, wetlands, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, playa lakes, or natural ponds, the use, degradation or destruction of which could affect interstate or foreign commerce.' Still not content, the Corps interpreted its regulations to include 'ephemeral streams' and 'drainage ditches' so long as they had a 'perceptible high water mark.' ...
In Rapanos, the Court held that, while the 'waters of the United States' were not just those that were navigable in fact, the term 'waters' could not bear the weight that the Corps wanted to put on it either. More particularly, the possible definitions of 'waters' don’t include 'channels through which water flows intermittently or ephemerally, or channels that periodically provide drainage for rainfall.' By including all of the intermittent and non-navigable waters that it did within the scope of its regulatory powers, the Court said that the Corps 'stretched the term ‘waters of the United States’ beyond parody.' In other words, the Corps' interpretation was not 'based on a permissible construction of the statute.'"
"Since water is often not owned by property owners whose land abuts a lake or a stream, the common law extends protection to water quality through riparian rights. Riparian rights to water are user rights that allow water users to sue those who damage water quality to the point where its use and enjoyment are reduced."
"[L]ong before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came into existence, firms knew that if they substantially polluted their neighbors' water, they could expect to be found liable. To minimize liability, water polluters installed pollution control devices. Paper mills in Wisconsin routinely owned miles of downstream river property, knowing that otherwise they would be liable for violation of riparian rights...."
"The Clean Water Act of 1977 embraces many of the principles and proposals put forward by my administration. The Congress has agreed to long-term funding for the municipal sewage treatment construction grant program which I urged in my environmental message earlier this year. This will help States and communities plan and implement effectively programs to clean up backlogs of municipal pollution.
The bill also emphasizes the importance of controlling toxic pollutants which endanger the public health--a focus which my administration has urged."
"Since the enactment of the Clean Water Act in 1972, we have achieved remarkable improvements in many of our Nation's water resources. Twenty years ago, less than half of America's rivers supported fish and shellfish or provided wildlife habitat. Fishing and swimming were restricted in many areas, and drinking water supplies were threatened. Today, however, nearly three-fourths of the Nation's waters support these uses, and many others have significantly improved in quality. Fish and waterfowl have returned to many of our rivers, lakes, and coastal waters.
We have taken great strides during the past two decades, primarily by controlling pollution from sewage treatment plants and industrial facilities. Recent advances in science and technology have enabled us to engage in more effective studies of water pollution -- its causes and its effects. These studies, which have often revealed the magnitude of previously underestimated problems, have led to more vigorous and innovative antipollution measures. At the same time, public awareness of the importance of clean water has also increased; now there is more support than ever for protecting and enhancing water quality."
"Every year the real Clean Water Act cleans more than a billion pounds of toxic pollutants from our water. Every year it keeps 900 million tons of sewage out of our rivers, lakes, and streams. In human terms, it keeps poisons out of your child's evening bath and bedtime glass of water.
Once a river of ours was so polluted that it actually caught fire. Thanks to that act, that doesn't happen anymore. The story used to be that if you fell into the Potomac, which this stream runs into, you had to go to a doctor and get shots to protect yourself from disease. Because of the genuine Clean Water Act, that's on its way to being a dark and distant memory. Today, the Potomac has rebounded, and many parts of it are safe for fishing and swimming."
"The Clean Water Act of 1972 and the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 have helped our citizens enjoy one of the safest and cleanest water supplies in the world. Under the Clean Water Act, the Federal Government has provided more than $80 billion in wastewater assistance to the States and localities. This fundamentally important investment has ensured that 165 million citizens now benefit from modern sewage treatment, up from 86 million in 1968. The important advances in waste water treatment since the Clean Water Act's passage constitute one of the major achievements in modern American public health.
In the last 30 years, the overall health of our marine waters, lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands has also dramatically improved. The Federal Government has cooperated with States, tribes, local communities, businesses, and concerned individuals to reduce significantly all forms of water pollution, making our waters better suited for recreation and other pursuits and more hospitable to aquatic life. Recent studies show that we are close to achieving our goal of halting overall wetlands loss, and we are hopeful that in the near future we will begin increasing the overall function and value of our wetlands. As we look to the challenges ahead, the Clean Water Act will be an important mainstay and tool for further progress."
"Despite significant efforts by Federal, State, and local governments and other interested parties, water pollution in the Chesapeake Bay prevents the attainment of existing State water quality standards and the 'fishable and swimmable' goals of the Clean Water Act. At the current level and scope of pollution control within the Chesapeake Bay's watershed, restoration of the Chesapeake Bay is not expected for many years. The pollutants that are largely responsible for pollution of the Chesapeake Bay are nutrients, in the form of nitrogen and phosphorus, and sediment. These pollutants come from many sources, including sewage treatment plants, city streets, development sites, agricultural operations, and deposition from the air onto the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and the lands of the watershed."
"The second bill we will sign today will enhance the quality of life for every American-the Clean Water Restoration Act will give us the power to rescue the once clear waters of our streams and our rivers and our lakes from the growing menace of pollution.
Like the problem of the cities, water pollution can no longer be attacked piecemeal. Our attack must be comprehensive if it is to be total. Pollution is not a problem of the individual cities or even the individual States. It is a problem of the entire riversheds and water basins. And there is where the problem must be fought."
"In 1970---2 1/2 years ago---I sent a sweeping, 37-point environmental message to the Congress, proposing a wide range of pioneering new legislation to control air and water pollution and to provide more parks and open spaces within reach of urban areas. In 1971 I sent a second major environmental message, again proposing comprehensive water pollution control legislation, which would allow the Nation to achieve clean water without causing inflationary pressures. I also recommended new initiatives to control ocean dumping, pesticides, toxic substances, noise, strip mining, and power plant siting. In a third major environmental message in 1972 I urged a number of additional measures, including a tax on harmful emissions of sulfur oxides, controls over underground disposal of toxic pollutants and sediment from construction, and a measure to protect endangered species.
These many proposals I have made, if enacted, would provide the authority to protect and preserve our natural environment for decades. But the Congress has failed to perform its part of the partnership. Legislation needed now languishes in the Congress, mired in inaction and jurisdictional squabbles."
"The pollution of our rivers, lakes and streams degrades the quality of American life. Cleaning up the Nation's waterways is a matter of urgent concern to me, as evidenced by the nearly tenfold increase in my budget for this purpose during the past four years.
I am also concerned, however, that we attack pollution in a way that does not ignore other very real threats to the quality of life, such as spiraling prices and increasingly onerous taxes. Legislation which would continue our efforts to raise water quality, but which would do so through extreme and needless overspending, does not serve the public interest. There is a much better way to get this job done.
For this reason, I am compelled to withhold my approval from S. 2770, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972--a bill whose laudable intent is outweighed by its unconscionable $24 billion price tag."
"Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, states began to recognize the importance of environmental quality and adopted first-generation environmental controls. As would be expected, different states had different priorities. Environmental protection did not always trump health care, education, or other local concerns. Nonetheless, by 1966, every state had adopted water-pollution legislation of some sort. Although some states' efforts were clearly more comprehensive, and successful, than others, federal policymakers had debated adopting environmental regulations for decades with little result.
What little water-quality data is available from the time suggests early state and local efforts were having an effect. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's first National Water Quality Inventory, conducted in 1973, found significant improvements in organic waste and bacteria levels in most major waterways over the preceding decade. America's rivers were improving even before the adoption of federal regulations in 1972, even if they still had a long way to go.
Just as water problems began to improve prior to adoption of the federal Clean Water Act, many types of air pollution began their decline before the enactment of the Clean Air Act. In both cases, the pollutants of greatest contemporary concern declined first. As the nation became wealthier, and the knowledge base improved, attention to environmental matters increased. It is well-established that wealthier societies place greater importance on environmental protection. They also have greater means to protect environmental values. The work of environmental analyst Indur Goklany strongly suggests that once wealthy societies perceive an environmental problem, they begin to address it. In the United States, this is exactly what happened. And contrary to the common fable, in most cases state and local governments were the first to act."
"As the decades have passed, we've invested less and less in our water infrastructure. At this point the EPA estimates that in order for America's water systems to be able to operate without sewage overflows or contamination, we'd need to invest $188 billion dollars.
Here's the thing: we can't afford not to. Each year, enough untreated sewage is released into America's waterways to cover the entire state of Pennsylvania in sewage one inch deep. Spending the money to prevent those overflows would pay off: adding over a quarter of a trillion dollars to the economy and employing nearly 1.9 million people.
Unfortunately, this isn't the direction we're headed. The Clean Water Act, never popular with polluters, is coming under increased attack. A still-stagnant economy is the perfect opportunity for those who think it's easier to dump pollutants in our rivers than to dispose of them properly. The polluters, and their allies in Washington, are fighting hard to curtail the Clean Water Act, using the now-hackneyed argument that having to clean up their messes costs jobs."
"Before the Clean Water Act, water quality in many, many parts of our country was simply deplorable.
Many of America's great waterways -- so vital to our health, our commerce and our very identity as a nation -- had become places to avoid.
The Hudson River contained bacteria levels of 170 times the safe limit. The Cuyahoga River in Ohio actually caught fire.
And the Upper Mississippi -- this father of waters, this national treasure -- was in serious decline.
There was a reason for this. Raw sewage and industrial waste was routinely dumped into rivers, lakes and coastal waters. There was simply no method in place of effectively controlling the pollution that was fouling America's waters.
But, 25 years ago, the American people said 'enough.'"
"Prior to the enactment of the Clean Water Act of 1972, we had clean water laws on the books, but they weren't very effective because the federal government had little authority. We have more drinkable, fishable and swimmable waters today, in part because we finally had a clean water law that didn't let states just flush their wastes downstream or do whatever their local companies found most convenient."
"The CWA is grounded in Congress’s authority to protect the flow of interstate commerce – authority granted by the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Through the CWA, Congress protects the quality of the waters and the ecosystems hydrologically connected to those waters, in order to maintain interstate commerce. The scope of jurisdiction under the CWA has fluctuated over time and exactly where the CWA applies has been a continuous source of contention. This controversy has largely resulted from differing definitions of 'navigable waters of the United States.' 'Navigable waters' is defined by the CWA to mean 'waters of the United States,' including the territorial seas."
"Under EPA regulations, the term 'waters of the United States' includes all of the following:
1. All waters that are currently used, were used in the past, or may be susceptible to use in the future in interstate or foreign commerce, including all waters that are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide;
2. All interstate waters, including interstate 'wetlands';
3. All other waters such as intrastate lakes, rivers, streams (including intermittent streams), mudflats, sandflats, wetlands, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, playa lakes, or natural ponds of which the use, degradation, or destruction would affect or could affect interstate or foreign commerce;
4. All impoundments of waters otherwise defined as waters of the United States under this definition;
5. Tributaries of waters identified in 1-4 of this definition;
6. The territorial seas; and
7. 'Wetlands' adjacent to waters identified in 1-6 of this definition."
"Over the past decade, interpretations of Supreme Court rulings unnecessarily limited the scope of Federal protection for our waters – narrowing the definition of waters and wetlands that are protected under the Clean Water Act. Today about 117 million Americans – more than a third of the US population – get their drinking water in part from sources that lack clear protection from pollution. At the same time, businesses and regulators face uncertainty and delay when seeking to invest by the waters that can be a center for economic activity. The guidance we release today will help restore protection to our waters using principles outlined by the Supreme Court and provide clearer, more predictable guidelines for determining which water bodies are protected under the law.
In contrast to previous guidance, this won't go into effect until we receive, consider and review public comment. This will allow all stakeholders – including communities and industry – to provide input before we apply the guidance. EPA and the Army Corps will follow-up with rulemaking, using what we learn and providing further opportunity for public comment on the scope of clean water protections. We are focused on ensuring the protections of smaller waters that feed into larger ones, and keeping downstream water safe from upstream pollution. And we’re reaffirming protection for wetlands that filter pollution, store water and help keep communities safe from floods.
The guidance will provide consistency and predictability by clarifying where the Clean Water Act applies nationwide. It will also ensure that polluters can be held accountable for fouling vital waters that American communities depend on."
"Under the Clean Water Act, politically preferred polluters are treated more favorably than others. Municipal polluters face cleanup goals that are often less stringent than those of industrial polluters, and their cleanup schedules are far more lenient. Yet, to the rivers and fish, pollution is pollution.
This problem of unequal treatment is compounded by the prevalence of citizen suit provisions in the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws. Although it may sound good to allow any citizen or citizen group to force the government to enforce pollution laws (and to allow the citizen or group to recoup legal costs), what it means is that special interest groups can effectively determine the enforcement priorities of government agencies. Many of the environmental organizations that engage in citizen suits have an anti-business bias. As a result, private industry is subject to more legal actions than either agricultural activities or governmental facilities, even though both of the latter are greater sources of water pollution. Indeed, between 1984 and 1988, environmentalist citizen suits against private industry were more than six times as common than suits against governmental facilities."