Report: One Third
of Industry Is Violating Clean Water Act
WASHINGTON, DC, August 7, 2002 (ENS) - Almost 30
percent 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,
a new report concludes.
"Permit to Pollute: How the Government's Lax Enforcement
of the Clean Water Act is Poisoning Our Waters" describes
shortcomings in the monitoring of water pollution and
efforts to deter polluters. The study's authors at the
U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) say the
report points out the folly of Bush administration proposals
to slash the enforcement budget at the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA).
"It is outrageous that the Bush Administration is proposing
to slash enforcement budgets when nearly 30 percent 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 the EPA's
Permit Compliance System database.
The group found that 134 major facilities were in what
the Act defines as "significant noncompliance" during
the entire 15 month period.
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 percent of U.S. surface
waters do not meet the fishable and swimmable standard.
The U.S. PIRG report includes several recommendations
to help bring about consistent compliance with federal
permits and move toward the zero discharge goals of the
Clean Water Act:
- 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
- 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
Representative Frank Pallone, a New Jersey Democrat,
has introduced legislation (HR 5079) that would accomplish
many of these recommendations. Senator Jon Corzine, also
a Democrat of New Jersey, is expected to introduce similar
legislation this fall.
"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," concluded Caplan. "The
administration's proposed cuts to EPA's enforcement budget
take us in the wrong direction at the wrong time."