Between 1899 and 1948 two other key legislation were enacted:
- Public Health Service Act of 1912. Expanded the mission of the United States Public Health Service to study problems of sanitation, sewage and pollution.
- Oil Pollution Act of 1924. Prohibited the intentional discharge of fuel oil into tidal waters, authorizing USACE to apprehend violators. This was repealed by the 1972 CWA, reducing the Corps’ role in pollution control to the discharge of dredged or fill material.
Water Pollution and Control ActPrior to 1948, the States, local, and regional agencies were the primary caretakers for controlling water pollution. During the mid 1800’s the role of contaminated water in the transmission of disease was realized, leading to the creation of State Boards of Health to administer water pollution control programs. Most of the early water pollution control programs were focused on water-borne infectious diseases such as typhoid and cholera.
The Water Pollution and Control Act of 1948 in essence gave the States technical services to help increase their programs to control water pollution, focusing primarily on the states role in water quality management. At the time, any Federal action against polluters could only be taken with consent of the State from which the pollution was alleged to originate.The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1956 further expanded the role of the Federal Government in controlling water pollution. It created a program of subsidies for municipal waste treatment plants construction, strengthened the powers of enforcement against polluters, increased funding for States to control water pollution, and provided new funding for research and education. Each of those programs were also included in the many amendments to the Act in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
Since 1948, the original Federal Water Pollution and Control Act has been amended extensively to further authorize additional water quality programs, standards and procedures to govern allowable discharges, create funding for construction grants or general program funding. Amendments added in subsequent years also provided for continued authority to conduct program activities or administrative changes to related activities.
Federal Water Pollution and Control Act Amendments
- Extension of appropriations authority through FY 1956 (Ch. 927; P.L. 579)
- Continued authority to develop comprehensive programs for the control of water pollution, to provide grants to States and interstate agencies to assist in developing such programs and to construct treatment facilities, and to establish enforcement measures for pollution of interstate waters (Ch. 518; P.L. 660)
- Extension of financial assistance to the State of Alaska (P.L. 86-70)
- Water Quality Act of 1965. Required states to issue water quality standards for interstate waters, and authorized the newly created Federal Water Pollution Control Administration to set standards where states failed to do so.
- Redefinition of eligible entities to include the 50 States and the District of Columbia (P.L. 86-624)
- Extension of the FWPCA for three months (P.L. 92-50)
- Extension of the FWPCA for one month (P.L. 92-138)
- Extension of certain provisions through June 30, 1972, and other provisions through April 30, 1972 (P.L. 92-240)
- Extension of the FWPCA through FY 1974 (P.L. 93-207)
- Establishment of the formula to allocate treatment works construction grants (P.L. 93-243)
- Extension of the FWPCA through FY 1975 (P.L. 93-593)
- Increase in the authorization level for the National Study Commission (P.L. 94-238)
- Establishment of a related municipal public works capital development and investment program (P.L. 94-369)
- Authorization for a loan guarantee program for construction of treatment works (P.L. 94-558)
- Additional program authorizations (P.L. 95-576)
- Extension of certain provisions through 1982 as well as authority for demonstration programs to remove PCB’s from the Hudson River and to clean-up state-owned abandoned mines that can be used as hazardous waste disposal sites (P.L. 96-483)
- Clarification of revenue distribution to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (P.L. 97-357)
- Modification of effluent limitations relating to biochemical oxygen demand and pH (P.L. 97-440)
- The Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1970 (December 2, 1970) created the Environmental Protection Agency, abolished the Federal Water Quality Administration in the Department of Interior, and transferred to EPA all functions formerly assigned to the Secretary of Interior and the Department of Interior which had been administered through the Federal Water Quality Administration.
- Section 402 of the 1972 amendments established the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) to authorize EPA issuance of discharge permits (33 U.S.C. 1342). Section 403 stipulated guidelines for EPA to issue permits for discharges into the territorial sea, the contiguous zone, and ocean waters further offshore (33 U.S.C. 1343).
- Important provisions were contained in Section 404 of the amendments. This section authorized the Corps of Engineers to issue permits for the discharge of dredged or fill material into navigable waters at specified disposal sites (33 U.S.C. 1344). EPA was authorized to prohibit the use of a site as a disposal site based on a determination that discharges would have an unacceptable adverse effect on municipal water supplies, shellfish beds and fishery areas, wildlife, or recreational uses.
The 1977 amendments, the Clean Water Act of 1977 (P.L. 95-217), again extensively amended the Water Pollution and Control Act. Of particular significance were the following provisions:
- Development of a “Best Management Practices” Program as part of the state area-wide planning program (33 U.S.C. 1288)
- Authority for the Fish and Wildlife Service to provide technical assistance to states in developing “best management practices” as part of its programs ofr the control of water pollution (33 U.S.C. 1288(i)(1))
- Authorization of $6 million for the Secretary of Interior to complete the National Wetlands Inventory by December 31, 1981 (33 U.S.C. 1288(i)(2))
- Authority for the Corps of Engineers to issue general permits on a state, regional, or national basis for any category of activities which are similar in nature, will cause only minimal environmental effects when performed separately, and will have only minimal cumulative adverse impact on the environment (33 U.S.C. 1344(e))
- Exemption of various activities from the dredge and fill prohibition including normal farming, silviculture, and ranching activities (33 U.S.C. 1344(f))
- Procedures for State assumption of the regulatory program, including a requirement that the Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service be involved in an advisory role regarding transfer of the program to the State (33 U.S.C. 1344 (g-m))
- Requirement for development of agreements to minimize duplication and delays in permit issuance (33 U.S.C. 1344 (g))
The Water Quality Act of 1987 (P.L. 100-4) provided the most recent series of amendments to the original Water Pollution and Control Act statute. Provisions included:
- Authority to continue the Chesapeake Bay Program and to establish a Chesapeake Bay Program Office (33 U.S.C. 1267). The original authorization for this program, the Chesapeake Bay Research Coordination Act of 1980 (P.L. 96-460), expired on September 30, 1984
- Establishment of a Great Lakes National Program Office within EPA and a Great Lakes Research Office within NOAA (33 U.S.C. 1268). Related Federal agencies, including the Fish and Wildlife Service, are required to submit annual reports to EPA regarding agency activities affecting compliance with the 1978 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement
- Requirement that EPA, in conjunction with the Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA, conduct research, as part of the Great Lakes Program, on the harmful effects of pollutants on the general health and welfare (33 U.S.C. 1254). Such research should emphasize the effect bioaccumulation of these pollutants in aquatic species has upon reducing the value of aquatic commercial and sport fisheries
- Requirement that states develop strategies for toxins cleanup in waters where the application of “Best Available Technology” (BAT) discharge standards is not sufficient to meet State water quality standards and support public health (33 U.S.C. 1314)
- Increase in the penalties for violations of Section 404 permits (33 U.S.C. 1344)
- Provisions that additional State reporting requirements on water quality of lakes including methods to mitigate the harmful effects of high acidity (33 U.S.C. 1324). Authorization for EPA to undertake a water quality demonstration program for lakes with an authorization of $15 million to States, with funds to be distributed based on relative acidity problems
- Establishments of $400 million program for States to develop and implement, on a watershed basis, nonpoint source management and control programs with EPA responsibility for grant administration, program approval, and periodic program evaluation (33 U.S.C. 1329)
- Authorization for a State/Federal cooperative program to nominate estuaries of national significance and to develop and implement management plans to restore and maintain the biological and chemical integrity of estuarine waters (33 U.S.C. 1330). Authorization to NOAA to conduct water quality research and trends assessment in estuaries of national significance
- Requirement that EPA study and monitor the water quality effects attributable to the impoundment of water by dams (33 U.S.C. 1375)
Resources for Water Pollution and Control Act:
- EPA History: FWCPA Water
- Digest of Federal Resource Laws of Interest to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- Cuyahoga River Catches Fire
- The Return of the Cuyahoga
Let us not allow them to rape our environment again in the name of profits, or in this case pure greed, let us keep the protections given to us by the Water Pollution and Control Act! Peace my friends!