- August 6 - Nearly 30% of the nation's largest industrial, municipal, and federal
facilities were in serious violation of the Clean Water Act at least once during
a recent 15-month period, according to a report released today by U.S. PIRG. Permit
to Pollute: How the Government's Lax Enforcement of the Clean Water Act is Poisoning
Our Waters describes many shortcomings in the monitoring of water pollution and
efforts to deter polluters, at the same time that the Bush Administration has
proposed slashing EPA's budget for enforcement.
"It is outrageous that
the Bush Administration is proposing to slash enforcement budgets when nearly
30% of polluting facilities are breaking the law," said U.S. PIRG Environmental
Advocate Richard Caplan. "With widespread violations of the law, this is
no time for the Bush administration to take cops off the beat."
Using the Freedom of Information
Act, U.S. PIRG obtained and analyzed the behavior of major facilities nationwide
by reviewing violations of the Clean Water Act between January 2000 and March
2001, as recorded in U.S. EPA's Permit Compliance System database.
Major findings of the report
- The ten states with the
greatest number of major facilities in Significant Non-Compliance (SNC) were Texas,
Ohio, New York, Indiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, Michigan,
- The ten states with the
highest percentage of major facilities in SNC were Utah, Texas, Tennessee, Wyoming,
the District of Columbia, Indiana, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Kansas, and Ohio.
- 134 major facilities were
in SNC during the entire 15 month period.
To bring about consistent
compliance with permits and move toward the zero-discharge goals of the Clean
Water Act, U.S. PIRG recommends the following:
- Set tougher penalties.
Penalties should be set high enough to remove any economic incentive for polluters
to break the law and to deter lawbreaking in the first place.
- Allow citizens full access
to the courts. Obstacles to citizen suits should be removed, including current
rules that bar citizens from suing federal facilities.
- Expand the public's right
to know. The public should have greater access to information about enforcement,
including the requirement of submissions of comprehensive data by facilities that
discharge into waterways and easy accessibility of that data through online Internet
The goal of the Clean Water
Act was to make U.S. waterways fishable and swimmable by 1983 and to achieve zero
discharge of pollutants to waterways by 1985. However, according to the most recent
EPA data, 40% of U.S. surface waters do not meet the fishable and swimmable standard.
Representative Pallone (NJ) has introduced legislation (H.R. 5079) that would
accomplish the recommendations listed above, and Sen. Corzine (NJ) is expected
to introduce similar legislation shortly.
"As we near the 30th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, we urge Congress
and the President to listen to the public's demands for clean water. The Administration's
proposed cuts to EPA's enforcement budget take us in the wrong direction at the
wrong time," concluded U.S. PIRG's Caplan.
U.S. PIRG is the national lobby office for the state Public Interest Research
Groups. State PIRGs are nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest advocacy groups.
The report is available at www.uspirg.org.