Throughout history there have been many big changes made in an effort to help clean up our countries waste water systems. These changes have been put in place to make sure we are within proper guidelines for keeping the water that is passed through our sewer systems directed to the correct places, and the water we are consuming healthy. In 1948 the first major law was passed in regards to water pollutants. Following that, in 1972 the government passed a “clean water act” in order to move even farther in keeping our countries water safe and clean, and disposed of correctly.
This act was said to be one of the most significant pieces of environmental regulation ever enacted. The federal Clean Water Act of 1972 was fueled by such concerns as the burning Cuyahoga River in Ohio, an un-fish-able, un-swim-able Potomac River, and a nearly dead Lake Erie.
National goals and objectives were established “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.” There were two major goals: to eliminate the discharge of all pollutants into navigable waters of the United States, and achieve an interim level of water quality that provides for the protection of fish, shellfish, and wildlife and recreation (the “fishable, swimmable” goal).
To help do this, the following programs were established: a state grant program to support the construction of sewage treatment plants, and the NPDES program. The NPDES program’s goal was to eliminate discharges to U.S. waters, and technological standards or discharge limits that had to be met based on water-quality standards set by the states. A minimum required percent removal of pollutants was added in 1985.
Secondary treatment was required, and limits were set for three major effluent parameters: biological oxygen demand, suspended solids, and pH.
The Water Quality Act of 1987 then made several changes, addressing firstly: excess toxic pollutants in some waters, and second: nonpoint source pollution . The construction grant program was phased out and replaced by financing projects with revolving fund, low-interest-rate loans. The amendments passed in 1987 also addressed storm-water controls and permits, regulation of toxics in sludge, and problems in estuaries. Penalties were added for permit violations. Also initiated were sludge-disposal regulations and funding for studies relative to nonpoint and toxic pollution sources.
The 1972 act has provided remarkable achievements, but there is still a long way to go. Forty percent of waters assessed by states still do not meet water-quality standards, mostly due to pollution from nonpoint sources. Other than from storm or combined storm sewer overflows, most of the remaining problem is not from pipes (point sources) but from sources such as farming and forestry runoff, construction sites, urban streets (storm water), automobiles, and atmospheric depositions, such as from power-plant air emissions (nonpoint sources). Current approaches to addressing nonpoint pollution include targeting and permitting by given watersheds and TMDL (total maximum daily load for a river stretch) assessments.
Many of the facilities funded by federal construction grants, which make up the wastewater collection and treatment infrastructure, are wearing out and are now undersized. Many, many dollars are needed to keep providing adequate treatment to maintain the status quo, let alone meet the needs of a growing populace.
As you can see, there have been many regards throughout history in trying to keep water as safe as possible. Its not always as easy as it may seem, but what we can all do as individuals is make sure we are keeping our own sewer lines up to guidlines and in working and able condition. I will continue further in my next post about how extensive everyone’s individual sewer lines can be an effect on the overall city and states pollution rates and what we can all do to help. If you would like any more information on way to make sure your homes lines are up to par, feel free to reach out to us. We are open 24/7 for emergencies and we are always ready and willing to help!