Summary of the Federal Clean Water Act

April 30, 2012 — 1,038 views  
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established the precursor of the current federal Clean Water Act (CWA) in 1948 when it created the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. This statute gave the government the basic structure for regulating the release of pollutants into U.S. waters, and it was reorganized and expanded in 1972. Since that time, the CWA has become synonymous with the quality standards for surface waters nationwide.

WPA officials used the act to create pollution control programs and set water quality standards for contaminants in these waters. Additionally, the EPA set up the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program to handle discharges.

This program played an important role in helping water remain pure across the country. The NPDES permit program made it illegal for a person to discharge a pollutant from a point source into navigable waters unless he or she received authorization from the agency. Industrial organizations, municipal agencies and other facilities are required to obtain these permits, and failing to do so could lead to serious legal ramifications.

Recently, the EPA has made it easy for people to access individual NPDES permits and fact sheets through Envirofacts, an online database featuring agency data systems. Envirofacts features permit documents for many major facilities, along with individual permits issued after November 1, 2002.