Understanding the Clean Water Act

We see news headlines about clean water, pollution, and other environmental issues daily. Clean water is a global issue, but one that needs to be tackled at every level – local, state, and even federal. The Federal Water Pollution Control Act was created in 1948 as a way to regulate water pollution in the United States. It was modernized by multiple amendments in 1972 and re-named as The Clean Water Act (CWA). So, what does this have to do with you?

As a member of your community, you have as much of a responsibility as anyone to help keep water in the United States clean and unpolluted. You have an impact on the environment, and it’s up to you to make sure that that impact is a good one.

What Does it Regulate?

According to the CWA, substances that fall under its jurisdiction include various toxic pollutants, biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), total suspended solids, fecal coliform, oil, grease, pH, and any “non-conventional” pollutants that are not categorized as conventional or priority. 

The CWA regulates both direct and indirect discharges of any of these pollutants into navigable waters.

Direct discharges include contamination from sources like pipes and sewers. Companies that need to discharge pollutants into national sewers are required to obtain a permit first, and then follow the regulations and conditions given by the NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) program.

Individual homes that do not have a surface discharge, use a septic system, or are connected to a community water system do not need an NPDES permit.

What Are the Consequences?

The NPDES regulates the discharge of pollutants into national waters, and any violation breaks the law. Even if the violation was an accident, the permittee is liable for prosecution. This can include a monetary penalty (up to $27,500 per violation per day), require the company to take corrective measure immediately, for the company to shut down production or activity until the problems are resolved, or even revoke a permit.

This stipulation negates the ability of any permittee to claim ignorance – it is up to every business and individual to be informed and aware of any pollution discharge for which they are responsible.

In addition to consequences meted out by the law, any violation pollutes the nation’s waters.That alone should be enough to avoid breaking the law when it comes to the CWA.

How Do I Avoid Violating the CWA?

The  most important thing you can do to avoid violating the CWA is to be informed. Monitor yourself, and if you notice any violations, take immediate corrective action.

Make sure your permit is up-to-date, and make sure any changes in pollution discharge are reported immediately to the EPA.

Look for ways to reduce discharge, such as keeping public streets swept and clean to avoid storm water discharge.

Keep yourself informed about what changes could happen and how they might affect you in the future…and what you can do to contribute to keeping the nation’s waters clean and free from pollution. Contact USA Services of Florida for more details.