The Clean Water Act Turns 40: Is the Law Still Protecting Our Waters?

 

Photo retrieved from: www.alternet.org

“The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972, known as The Clean Water Act was not the first piece of federal legislation to protect water. But it was the first time that real power was invested with the federal government to make sure that water got clean and stayed clean. Its essential demand, that all waterways in the United States be “fishable and swimmable” by 1985 was remarkable in its forthrightness. It invested the Environmental Protection Agency with the power to prosecute “point source polluters,” i.e. commercial enterprises directly responsible for fouling the water. No longer was the onus on citizens to prove the value of clean water. Rather the burden was switched to industry. Industry had to prove that its actions did not impinge upon what became codified as an American right to fish and swim, safely, in public waterways.

Next, Clean Water Act, what have you done?

Are all public American waterways fishable and swimmable as they were mandated to be by 1985? They most assuredly are not. But the most egregious aspects of the abuse of water have stopped. Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River no longer catches fire, as it did regularly, throughout the 1950s and 60s. A corporation can no longer spill oil into the sea and expect to escape without a fine. Indeed, the billions of dollars British Petroleum will undoubtedly have to pay in the coming years as a result of the 2010 Gulf Spill are made possible by the instruments of the Clean Water Act.”

Read more: Alternet

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