Clean Water Act violated a half-million times in five years with 3% enforcement rate!
This weekend the New York Times released it’s investigation into the worthlessness of the Clean Water Act:
“Almost four decades ago, Congress passed the Clean Water Act to force polluters to disclose the toxins they dump into waterways and to give regulators the power to fine or jail offenders. States have passed pollution statutes of their own. But in recent years, violations of the Clean Water Act have risen steadily across the nation, an extensive review of water pollution records by The New York Times found. In the last five years alone, chemical factories, manufacturing plants and other workplaces have violated water pollution laws more than half a million times.” http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/13/us/13water.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=jennifer%20hall-massey&st=cse
Perhaps the actual law isn’t worthless, but the significance of the liability for governments who fail to enforce it certainly is worthless. The New York Times expose focuses primarily on toxics getting into people’s water supply, but the Clean Water Act also applies to sediment / erosion which has an equivalent effect on species that depend on aquatic habitat. In terms of enforcement the article points out:
“State officials have repeatedly ignored obvious illegal dumping, and the Environmental Protection Agency, which can prosecute polluters when states fail to act, has often declined to intervene. Regulators themselves acknowledge lapses. …Times’s research shows that fewer than 3 percent of Clean Water Act violations resulted in fines or other significant punishments by state officials. And the E.P.A. has often declined to prosecute polluters or force states to strengthen their enforcement by threatening to withhold federal money or take away powers the agency has delegated to state officials. …The new E.P.A. administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, said in an interview that despite many successes since the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972, today the nation’s water does not meet public health goals, and enforcement of water pollution laws is unacceptably low. She added that strengthening water protections is among her top priorities. State regulators say they are doing their best with insufficient resources.”
If Salmon are saved from extinction in Humboldt County it will, in part, be because a broad base of educated citizen’s and their political leaders set forth intensive new penalties and fines for not just polluters, but for the agencies who fail to enforce the Clean Water Act.