EPA moves to deliver the promise of 1972 US Clean Water Act

With 90 per cent of Americans living within 10 miles of polluted water, the US moved a step nearer the water clean-up promised by the 1972 Clean Water Act.


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Under the final programme announced and signed on July 11th, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will work in partnership with state and local government to implement a national programme for identifying polluted waters, determining the sources of pollution, and designing clean-up plans.

Over 20,000 river segments, lakes and estuaries across America do not meet public health water quality standards. The EPA, the states and local communities will work together to develop specific cleanup plans for the protection of local water bodies. State and local communities will set their own total maximum daily loads, TMDLs, reducing the pollution that flows directly into a water body.

The final programme comes after four years of extensive consultation with states, local communities, and agricultural, environmental and industrial groups. Shortly before the 4th July recess, Congress attached an anti-environmental rider to an emergency supplemental spending bill. This has forced a delay in the programme, which will now start only in October 2001.

The Administration and the EPA agreed to make changes in response to the comments received after initial proposals. Many modifications provide the states with more flexibility in implementing the programme. Changes include dropping requirements for new permits for forestry, livestock, and aqua-culture operations; giving states four years instead of two years to update inventories of polluted waters and allowing states to establish their own schedules for when polluted waters will achieve health standards, (not to exceed 15 years).

The plan builds on the successful cleanup models of the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay, using measurable targets to achieve real reductions in water pollution. It supports a credit trading system like that used in the acid rain program, to ensure cost-effectiveness.

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