Clean Water Act

The Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1972 is federal legislation governing water pollution.  It provides for the maintenance of the chemical, physical and biological integrity of Nation’s waters.  This includes:

-Reduction of release of toxic substances to the U.S. waters,
-Elimination of additional water pollution, and
-Maintenance of surface waters to meet necessary standards for human sports and recreation.

The CWA introduced a permit system for regulating the point sources of pollution.  The point sources include:

-Industrial facilities, which consist of manufacturing, mining, oil extraction, and service industries.
-Municipal government and other government facilities.
-Some agricultural facilities like animal feedlots.

These point sources can discharge pollutants into waters only with a permit from the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) manages this system with the help of State Environmental Agencies.  The EPA has authorized some states to issue permits directly to the point sources.  The EPA regional office issues such permits in the remaining States.

CWA prescribes water quality standards in order to limit the point source discharges. This Act also created a major public work financing program for the municipal sewage treatment.

Moreover, Section 305 (b) of the Act requires EPA to compile a biennial report to Congress on the nation’s water quality.  Under Section 309, EPA can issue administrative orders and can seek civil, criminal penalties against the violators of the Act.  The minimum fine is $ 2,500 per each day of violation for a first offense of criminal negligence.  The maximum fine for the same is $ 25,000 per each day of violation.  The violator may also receive one year jail imprisonment.  The maximum fine is $ 50,000 per each day of violation for a second offense.  If an individual placed another in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury, it is endangerment violation.  The maximum fine for this is $ 25,0000.


Inside Clean Water Act