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Water Pollution In Depth

Water Pollution In Depth

Water is one of the most important resources on Earth. Over 70% of the Earth’s surface is water. It considered a renewable resource. However, water has another major property, many dangerous chemicals can be dissolved into water. The dumping of refuse was common throughout human history. Before, the Industrialization is was common to through food scraps and waste into the river or other body of water.

Nature could handle that kind of pollution and that type of pollution did not have much of an adverse effect on life in the rivers. During the Industrial Revolution and well into the 20th and 21st century, mass production created amounts of toxic by-products that could no longer be effectively absorbed through nature’s natural purification process. The toxicity of water climbed to unsustainable levels that longer supported life. If life still existed in polluted waters, living things would be subject to illness, infertility, or genetic malformation. Something had to be done.

The United States Congress passed several measures at the turn of the 20th century that governed methods of dumping water. However, many of these laws were not enforced and lacked the regulatory capacity to ensure that businesses were following the rules.  By the 1970s, Congress had passed landmark legislation that ushered in the modern system of water pollution mitigation. The Clean Water Act was the landmark legislation that had the regulatory teeth that previous statutes lacked.

Navigable Waters

This is a term that is repeated throughout the Clean Water Act. According to the Statute’s language, “Navigable Waters” means water that has significant nexus to water that can accommodate vessels or swimming. “Significant nexus” is legal parlance that describes bodies of water with significant connections to larger bodies of water that allow for swimming or boats. This inexact phrasing was intended to broadly define the bodies of water that were covered under the Clean Water Act.

The idea behind such awkward phrasing was to define bodies of water subject to regulation as anything that was not a puddle in a driveway. In 2006, this part of the Clean Water Act was challenged in the Supreme Court case of Rapanos v. United States. The Court clarified the definition to narrow the scope of the law. Navigable waters was limited to only include lakes, rivers, streams, tributaries, and other recognizable geographic formations pertaining to water. 

Standards for Equipment

The EPA reserves the right to mandate that polluting companies seeking to dump their waste into a body of water must first purify the water with the best possible equipment. Polluting industries must either use their own waste management equipment that is specifically sanctioned as the best by the EPA or send their waste-water to the the municipal or county water treatment facility.

The Clean Water Act appropriates funds to local governments so that they can build their own water treatment facilities to reduce water pollution. If polluting industries choose to use the government facilities, they may transport the waste-water in EPA approved containers. They must also clean out the tanks in an EPA sanctioned manner as well.

Clean Water Act & Its Amendments

The Clean Water Act is what made any government measures to regulate water pollution feasible. The act contains language that grants the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to enforce the Clean Water Act. The Clean Water Act uses a combined strategy of regulatory and non-regulatory measures to ensure the safety of surface water.

The Clean Water Act does not cover ground water. The Clean Water Act covers all bodies of water that are navigable or connected to navigable waters. The act does not cover isolated and impermanent bodies of water. Therefore, the ability to bump waste into most bodies of water requires a permit. The approach to enforcing the Clean Water Act is based on maintaining water pollution at acceptable levels.

The Act also helps state and local governments deal with their local water pollution problems through waste-water exchange programs and encouraging the local enforcement of the act. The Act was amended twice in its history: in 1977 and 1987. The Clean water Act was amended to include provisions to maintain acceptable water quality for swimming and recreation. 


Wetlands were historically subject to much environmental abuse due to water pollution as a result of industries and businesses dumping waste-water in swamps and marshes. Wetlands were an under-appreciated geographic formation because they were mosquito infested and did not smell well. However, it was later revealed that Wetlands and the animals that inhabit them are equally as important as any other part of Earth.

Wetlands were included in the original Clean Water Act. However, the lack of appreciation for wetlands gave little cause for water pollution enforcement. Places like the Florida Everglades have lay in waste as a result of years of water pollution. Alligators were beginning to die.

The Army Corps of Engineers intervened through its program of dredging an flood control to rebuild the Florida wetlands. Many other major swamp regions have become conservation areas whose wildlife is to be respected. Polluting the water on wetlands is illegal as long as the wetlands is connected to major body of water. 

Violations of the Clean Water Act

Violating the Clean Water Act has serious consequences. Violations do not only result in slap-on-the-wrist fines and possible jail time, they result in injury. Water pollution violations all over the United States have resulted in irreparable harm done to humans as well as countless species of animals. Polluted drinking water has been the cause of several chronic illnesses that are associated with a given region.

Industrial water pollution has also been implicated in the malformation of amphibians. Doctors warn pregnant mothers to avoid eating fish because the mercury content can harm the development of fetuses. Violating the Clean Water Act is more than just a fine, it is the immoral act of ruining the health and potential of fellow living things.

Violating this act is to be avoided because it is a moral obligation to keep the waters as clean as possible because all life on earth is interrelated and pollution travels throughout the earth.