Polluters Getting Away — Clean Water Act Not Enforced


Our streams and rivers are far from clean – pollution from urban runoff and farms are significant sources that are challenging to control. One thing that the Clean Water Act makes clear is that “point source” pollution – water pollution from sewage treatment, industrial plants and other sources must meet pollution limits.

However, in an excellent analysis, the New York Times makes clear that many polluters are getting away:

“[i]n recent years, violations of the Clean Water Act have risen steadily across the nation…In the last five years alone, chemical factories, manufacturing plants and other workplaces have violated water pollution laws more than half a million times. The violations range from failing to report emissions to dumping toxins at concentrations regulators say might contribute to cancer, birth defects and other illnesses. However, the vast majority of those polluters have escaped punishment…”

We already know that at least 850 billion gallons of raw or partially treated sewage is being dumped in our streams and rivers and that enforcement declines have already occurred because of confusing Supreme Court decisions. But writer Charles Duhigg makes clear the devastating human health consequences of such industrial coal pollution in West Virginia. Increased enforcement as well as stronger laws must be a priority.

To see the polluters in your state: http://projects.nytimes.com/toxic-waters/polluters

For more on our Clean Water work, see: http://www.americanrivers.org/our-work/clean-water/