Water Quality - The United States System of Protection for...

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The United States’ System of Protection for Water Quality Starting in the late 1940’s, water quality was becoming a major issue especially in  regards to the dumping of untreated sewage into various water bodies.  The predominant  paradigm during the time leading up to the Clean Water Act (CWA) was the belief in the dilution  effect.  However people started to realize that pollutants didn’t just disappear but instead  accumulated and adverse effects were seen at some later time.  The CWA originated in 1948  and was completely revised in 1972.  It was authored under the belief that all discharges are  unlawful unless a permit is issued.  The main objective set forth in the 1972 revision was to  restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters.  Two  goals were also defined.  The first was to have zero discharge of pollutants by 1985.  The  second goal was to have all waters “fishable and swimmable” by mid-1983.  While the nation  has missed these deadlines the effort to reach them continues.  The CWA has been described  as a “technology forcing statue”.  It set up a phased plan to reduce both conventional and toxic  pollutants.  First, dischargers were required to install “best practicable control technology” (BPT)  that focuses on conventional pollutants.  The next phase required dischargers to use “best  available technology” (BAT) by March 1989 to reduce toxic pollutants.  The backbone of this Act  is the use of water quality standards and technology-based effluent limitations.  These are  numerical limits on the discharge of pollutants that are set by the EPA and the state and are  included in permits.  The responsibilities for implementing and enforcing this Act have been  divided between the federal government and the states.  The federal EPA is responsible for  setting standards and agenda.  It also provides information, technical, and financial support for 
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