Clean Water Act Amendments



During the 1960s, the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire, Lake Erie was so polluted it was said to be dying, and human sewage and pollution commonly killed fish in the nation's rivers and streams. Public concern grew so overwhelming that the United States Congress enacted the "Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972" over the veto of President Richard Nixon. The basis for the law was the Federal Water Pollution Control Act which had been enacted in 1948. The 1972 amendments significantly reorganized and expanded the Act. It commonly became known as the Clean Water Act following additional amendments in 1977. Further amendments occurred under the Water Quality Act of 1987.

The Clean Water Act, or CWA, is the primary federal law in the U.S. that regulates the discharge of pollutants into the nations surface waters, including lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands, and coastal areas. The 1972 amendments set two national goals: elimination of the discharge of pollutants into the nation's waters, and achievement of water quality to protect fishing and swimming. It is administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency which sets water quality standards, handles enforcement, and helps state and local governments develop their own pollution control plans.

The original goal of the CWA was to eliminate the discharge of untreated waste water from municipal and industrial sources and thus make American waterways safe for swimming and fishing. Toward that end, the federal government provided billions of dollars to finance the building of sewage treatment facilities. The CWA also required businesses to apply for federal permits to discharge pollutants into waterways, as well as to reduce the amount of their discharges over time.

How BNL Complies

The Laboratory first complied with the Act on January 31, 1974 when the effluent from the on-site Sewage Treatment Plant became subject to the conditions of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program. In 1975, New York State was delegated CWA authority. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) administers the program for the State. The Lab's State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permit regulates wastewater, storm water runoff, and cooling water effluents at BNL. This permit establishes release concentration limits and specifies monitoring requirements for 12 outfall locations. Outfall 001 covers the discharge of treated effluent from the Lab's Sewage Treatment Plant to the Peconic River.

Each month a Discharge Monitoring Report is prepared that reports monitoring data and evaluates compliance with permit limitations and identifies corrective measures taken to address any permit excursions. This report is submitted directly to the NYSDEC central and regional offices and to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.

Documents / Links

Chapter 3, Compliance Status, of the 2009 Site Environmental Report

EPA History

EPA Introduction to the Clean Water Act

Wikipedia Clean Water Act Entry