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(See endnotes 18, 19, 20)

Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act of 1899

The Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act of 1899 is the oldest federal environmental law in the United States. It made it a misdemeanor to discharge any kind of refuse material into the navigable waters of the United States without a permit. It also controlled the alteration of any body of water in any manner without a permit. Although this act is still in force, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 and its subsequent amendments authorized the Surgeon General of the US Public Health

Service to work with other federal agencies, and state and local entities to prepare comprehensive programs for eliminating or reducing pollution in interstate waters for improving the sanitary conditions of surface and ground waters.

Federal Water Pollution Control Act (Clean Water Act)

The Federal Water Pollution Control Act (Clean Water Act) of 1948 and its many amendments including the major ones of 1961, 1966, 1970, 1972, 1977, and 1987 (Water Quality Act) are the basis for water quality and water pollution control programs in the United States. In 1977, a provision was made for the development of a Best Practices program as part of state area-wide planning. In 1987, a provision was made requiring states to develop strategies for cleanup of toxics in waters when the best available technology discharge standards did not provide appropriate water quality and endangered public health. In 1996, the Safe Drinking Water Act amendments were passed. Provisions of this law have been updated through November 2012.

Immediate compliance and enforcement challenges made worse by wet weather are municipal combined sewer and sanitary sewer overflows, concentrated animal feeding operations, industrial liquid waste disposal, industrial stormwater, and runoff from different types of land. It is unlawful to discharge any pollutant from a point source into the navigable waters of the country. It is also necessary to control non-point source contamination.

The US EPA has been given the authority to:

  • • Monitor compliance with the Clean Water Act, including inspections
  • • Conduct civil enforcement
  • • Grant permits to control discharges through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)
  • • Develop water quality criteria and standards to protect human health and the environment
  • • Develop water quality models
  • • Explain different approaches for watershed protection
  • • Act as a resource for animal feeding operations
  • • Act as a resource for agriculture concerning surface and groundwater pollution
  • • Conduct periodic inspections of industrial users’ pretreatment of wastewater
  • • Conduct periodic inspections of publicly owned treatment works (municipal sewage)
  • • Conduct periodic inspections of publicly owned treatment works and industrial facilities that generate, store, transport, and dispose of biosolids
  • • Inspect facilities that store oil to prevent oil spills
  • • Conduct inspections of industrial stormwater, construction sites, industrial sites, and municipal stormwater systems
  • • Conduct inspections of combined sewers and overflows
  • • Conduct inspections of wetland areas
  • • Provide financing for specific water quality projects which have been approved by the US EPA
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