Factories, Cities Across USA Exceed Water Pollution Limits
By Sunny Lewis
WASHINGTON, DC, March 24, 2006 (ENS) - More than 62 percent of industrial and municipal facilities across the country discharged more pollution into U.S. waterways than their Clean Water Act permits allowed between July 2003 and December 2004, finds a report on compliance with the law released Thursday.
"Troubled Waters: An analysis of Clean Water Act compliance," released by by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG), shows that the 10 states with the most exceedances of Clean Water Act permit limits during this time period are Ohio, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Tennessee, Indiana, West Virginia, Massachusetts, and Illinois.
The states that allowed at least 100 exceedances of at least 500 percent are Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New York, Tennessee, Texas, and Massachusetts.
U.S. PIRG called on the Bush administration to back off its efforts to weaken the Clean Water Act by withdrawing its 2003 policy directive that eliminates Clean Water Act protections for many small streams, wetlands and other waters around the country, and to commit to strengthening enforcement of the Clean Water Act.
Using the Freedom of Information Act, U.S. PIRG obtained data on major facilities’ compliance with their National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits between July 1, 2003 and December 31, 2004. U.S. PIRG researchers found that polluters repeatedly exceeded their permit limits, often by egregious amounts.
The average facility discharged pollution in excess of its permit limit by more than 275 percent, or almost four times the legal limit.
Nationally, 436 major facilities exceeded their Clean Water Act permits for at least half of the monthly reporting periods between July 1, 2003 and December 31, 2004. Thirty-five facilities exceeded their Clean Water Act permits during every reporting period.
The 10 states with the highest percentages of major facilities exceeding their Clean Water Act permit limits at least once are West Virginia, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, Utah, the District of Columbia, and Maine.
The eight counties with the most facilities exceeding their Clean Water Act permits at least once in this 18 month period include three in Connecticut, the most in any one state - New Haven County, Hartford County, and Fairfield County. The other five counties with large numbers of facilities exceeding their permit limits are:
Today, more than 40 percent of U.S. waterways are unsafe for swimming and fishing activities.
"All Americans deserve clean water to drink and safe places to swim and fish. To clean up our waterways, this continuing pollution must stop," said Leavitt.
"In addition," she said, "the Bush Administration and Congress should fully fund the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to help communities upgrade their clean water systems."
Facilities in California, Oregon and Washington were not included in the report as a result of unreliable data.
In order to achieve the goals of the Clean Water Act, U.S. PIRG recommends that federal and state officials:
U.S. PIRG applauded four Congressmen - Republicans Sherman Boehlert of New York and James Leach of Iowa, and Democrats John Dingell of Michigan and Jim Oberstar of Minnesota - as well as Senator Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat, for spearheading the Clean Water Authority Restoration Act. This legislation ensures that all U.S. waters are protected by the Clean Water Act.
"The decision also shifts more of the economic burden for regulating wetlands to state and local governments. Wisconsin has passed a bill to assume the regulation of isolated waters, but many other states have not," Feingold said.
S. 912 would do three things. First, it would define 'waters of the United States' based on a longstanding definition of waters in the Corps of Engineers' regulations, Feingold explained. "Second, it would clarify that Congress's primary concern in passing the Clean Water Act was to protect the nation's waters from pollution, rather than just sustain the navigability of waterways."
"Finally," the senator said, "it would explain the basis for Congress to assert its constitutional authority over waters and wetlands. This section also makes it clear that protecting our waters is critical to public interests, including hunting and fishing."