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Environmental Law - Clean Water Act

pollution sources cwa permit

The Clean Water Act (CWA) was enacted in 1977 in response to nationwide water pollution issues. The CWA established national programs for the prevention, reduction, and elimination of pollution in national navigable waters and groundwater. The CWA functions primarily by requiring persons or businesses engaging in polluting activities to obtain a permit from the EPA. This permit details the amount, type, and manner in which the substance may be discharged into the water. If permit conditions are violated, the permit holder is subject to civil or criminal penalties. The CWA authorizes each state to implement and enforce its provisions.

There are three categories of water pollution sources: point sources, non-point sources and dredge and fill operations. Point sources refer to any discernable, confined conveyance from which a pollutant may be discharged, such as a pipe or ditch. Non-point source pollution is spread by rainwater and melting snow runoff into, over, and through soils to surface water or through soils to underground reservoirs. The EPA considers non-point source pollution the largest cause of water contamination in the nation. Agricultural activities are the biggest contributor to this type of water pollution via the use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Logging and mining operations, waste disposal sites and landfills, urban areas and roads, and atmospheric deposition are secondary sources of non-point source pollution. Finally, dredge and fill operations include sludge disposal, dredging operations, and in-water construction.

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