On the 30th anniversary of the federal Clean Water Act,
more than 200 industrial and municipal sites in Pennsylvania
and thousands across the nation are repeatedly and egregiously
violating pollution discharge limits while enforcement
agencies do little to stop them, according to a new report
by the environmental group, PennEnvironment.
The report, based on statistics submitted to the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency by the industries themselves,
lists Pennsylvania among the 10 states or territories
that registered the most instances when federal pollution
limits were exceeded as well as the greatest number of
gross violations -- when discharges go at least five times
over the limits.
"Pennsylvania is not doing enough to follow either the
letter or spirit of the Clean Water Act," said David Masur,
director of PennEnvironment. "When a state has so many
egregious violations it's not doing enough to hinder polluters,
either by setting fines high enough or revoking the permits
of repeat violators."
The list of Pennsylvania companies repeatedly exceeding
discharge permits includes U.S. Steel's Clairton Coke
Works, which discharges into Peters Creek and the Monongahela
River, and Reliant Energy's coal-fired power plant in
East Wheatfield, Indiana County, which discharges into
the Conemaugh River.
The Clean Water Act, signed into law on Oct. 18, 1972,
set the overly ambitious goals of making all waterways
"fishable and swimmable" by 1983 and totally eliminating
the discharge of pollutants by 1985.
The act has lead to important and widespread water quality
improvements, but 39 percent of rivers in the United States,
51 percent of estuaries and 46 percent of lakes remain
too polluted for safe fishing or swimming.