Has EPA failed to implement the Clean water Act?

The following article has been contributed by invited guest author Peter Maier. The editor takes no side in this issue, but presents it for your cogitation. You may comment directly to this post on the LakeStewardship Blog and to Peter using the contact information at the end of this article. The author’s website provides a variety of additional information on this topic – Michael R. Martin, LakeStewardship.org

Why EPA failed to implement the Clean water Act.

As long as EPA does not consider nitrogenous waste (urine and protein) pollution, we will never implement the Clean Water Act, as it was intended. This waste not only, like fecal waste, exerts an oxygen demand, but also is a fertilizer for algae and aquatic plant growth, causing eutrophication and eventually dead zones.

The reason EPA ignored this pollution is caused by a worldwide incorrect applied pollution test, EPA used to implement the Clean Water Act and although EPA in 1984 acknowledged this incorrect use, in stead of correcting the test, it allowed an alternative test and thereby officially ignored this type of pollution and by doing so lowered the goal of the CWA from 100% treatment (elimination of all pollution by 1985) to a measly 35% treatment, without even notifying Congress.

Other problems caused by this incorrect applied test are that we do not know the real performance of a sewage treatment plants and have no idea what the effluent waste loading is on receiving water bodies, besides also the possibility that such plants are designed to treat the wrong waste in sewage.

In an attempt to correct its mistake, EPA initiated watershed programs, where all contributing pollution form different runoff sources is established, among others the effluents of sewage treatment plants or also called point-source pollution. Though this program, EPA hoped that much better treatment would be required for what it determined to be secondary treatment.

This program, however, violates the intend of the CWA as Congress demanded the Act to be implemented with a ‘technology-based’ program, demanding ‘bets available technology’ and not a ‘water quality-based’ program, whereby effluent standards of sewage treatment plant could be set based on the water quality of receiving water bodies. Such a program, Congress felt, could be easily manipulated by local politicians and would defeat the original intend of the act to set uniform nation-wide standards to treat sewage.

Sal Lake County recently published a draft report of such a watershed TMDL study and whiles it, besides the actual flow rates, monitors ten different chemical analyzes for the non-point sources, while it only has two water quality analyses of the effluents of the point sources, while these flows clearly dominate the water quality of the river.

If interested in my comments of the study contact me at pmaier@erda.net or if you like know about incorrect test that caused the failure of the CWA, visit www.petermaier.net and read the description of this test (BOD) in the Technical PDF section.

Peter Maier, PhD, PE

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