America's Troubled Waters
Source: U.S. PIRG, Troubled Waters: An
Analysis of Clean Water Act Compliance, 2006.
Since 1972, the Clean Water Act has made significant strides in
cleaning up U.S. waterways. Unfortunately, the law’s goals of
eliminating the discharge of pollutants into waterways by 1985 and
making all U.S. waters safe for fishing, swimming, and other uses by
1983 have not been met. Today, more than 40% of U.S. waterways are
unsafe for these basic activities. Among the findings included in a 2006
study by U.S. PIRG, Troubled Waters: An Analysis of Clean Water Act
- Nationally, 62% of all major industrial and municipal facilities
discharged more pollution into U.S. waterways than their permits allow
at least once during the 18-month period studied.
- Major facilities exceeding their Clean Water Act permits, on
average, exceeded their permit limits by about 275%, or almost four
times the allowed amount.
- Nationally, 436 major facilities exceeded their Clean Water Act
permit limits for at least half (9 of the 18) monthly reporting periods
between July 1, 2003, and December 31, 2004. Thirty-five facilities
exceeded their Clean Water Act permits during every monthly reporting
- The ten U.S. states that allowed the highest percentage of major
facilities to exceed their Clean Water Act permit limits at least once
are West Virginia, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Iowa, Ohio, New
Hampshire, Utah, the District of Columbia, and Maine.
- According to EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory, polluters
discharged more than 221.8 million pounds of toxic chemicals into our
waterways in 2003 alone.
- Approximately 39% of our rivers, 46% of our lakes, and 51% of our
estuaries are still too polluted for safe fishing or swimming.
- In March 2006, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released a report
describing the occurrence of pesticides in streams and groundwater over
the ten years spanning 1992–2001. USGS found at least one
pesticide in all of the streams studied.
- Pollution caused nearly 20,000 beach closings in 2004, the highest
level in 15 years.
- In 2004, 31 states had statewide fish consumption advisories in
place because of toxic pollution.
- At least 853 billion gallons of raw sewage are dumped into U.S.
waterways every year. U.S. sewer systems are aging; by 2025, sewage
pollution will reach the highest levels in U.S. history without
significant investment in wastewater treatment infrastructure.
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