The Clean Water Act is turning 40 this year. To mark the occasion, Ecotrope, EarthFix and InvestigateWest are teaming up to size up the landmark environmental law in a long-term reporting project we’re calling Clean Water: The Next Act.
In 1972, the Clean Water Act set ambitious goals for preventing, reducing and eliminating water pollution. The law gave the Environmental Protection Agency the power to enforce new limits on “point source” pollution – such as a pipe that dumps treated sewage from a wastewater treatment plant – to stop toxic chemicals from poisoning waterways. It allowed the EPA to set higher water quality standards to protect fish, wildlife and people, and it called for long-term solutions to non-point source pollution such as agricultural and stormwater runoff.
So, now, as the law turns 40, we’re wondering: Which of these original goals have been accomplished? Which ones have not? How much cleaner is our water? And is it clean enough?
To launch this project, we’d like to hear from you. What are your thoughts on the successes and/or failures of the Clean Water Act? How does the law affect your and people you know?
Over the next several months, we will keep you posted on our progress here on Ecotrope and on the InvestigateWest site. Here are some of the specific questions we’re working to answer right now:
- Are there places in the Northwest where the law has failed to keep rivers clean enough for people to eat the resident fish?
- Is the law is being enforced? Are illegal polluters in the Northwest being caught and punished as the law requires?
- Has the law failed to control non-point sources of pollution such as agricultural run-off and stormwater?
- Should the law be regulating more pollutants – such as the chemicals and hormones that we’re flushing down the toilet?
Please chime in with your questions, observations and story ideas. And stay tuned for updates.