The Clean Water Act, passed in 1972, is one of the cornerstones of environmental law, and is a primary tool Gulf Restoration Network uses to protect the waters that flow into the Gulf of Mexico.
By using the Act, we hope to realize its goal to "restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters."
Under the Clean Water Act, states must establish water quality standards that define the goals and uses for a waterbody. These standards drive the development of pollution discharge permits, determine which waters must be cleaned up and which waters need protection. Further, when a river or stream violates these standards, a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL)--a path to cleaning up the water--must be developed.
Regretfully, Gulf states do not always establish protective standards. In a report released by GRN in 2009, entitled Clean Up Your Act! A Gulf State Report Card, we examined each Gulf state's water quality policies. The report grades the Gulf States on issues such as water quality standards, policies to prevent Dead Zone-causing pollution, public health protection and citizen participation in the policy-making process. Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas earned an average of a D+ for their implementation of the Clean Water Act.
GRN works to track proposed changes to Gulf State standards and water clean up plans, and submit technical and legal comments. With the help of our members and supporters, we strive to make sure that Gulf states are following the law, as well as protecting the people and wildlife that depend on these waters.
Under the Clean Water Act, all pollution discharges from discrete sources (i.e. a pipe) need a permit. In the Gulf region, EPA delegated the authority to issue permits to the states. These permits should protect state waters. This is not always the case.
With a focus on Louisiana and Mississippi, GRN monitors and submits public comments on draft water pollution permits. When a permit does not follow state and federal laws and regulations, we often challenge these permits. If our comments are not implemented, or if a facility is illegally discharging pollution into Gulf State waters, we are sometimes forced to take legal action.