On the Clean Water Act’s 35th Anniversary, Polluters Continue to Contaminate Massachusetts’ Waterways

Media Releases

Environment Massachusetts

Boston, MA— More than 75% percent of industrial and municipal facilities across Massachusetts discharged more pollution into our waterways than their Clean Water Act permits allow in 2005, according to Troubled Waters: An analysis of Clean Water Act compliance, a new report released today by Environment Massachusetts.

“As the Clean Water Act turns 35, polluters continue to foul our rivers, lakes and streams,” said Piper Crowell, field associate with Environment Massachusetts.  “With so many facilities dumping so much pollution, no one should be surprised that nearly half of America’s waterways are unsafe for swimming and fishing.  But we should be outraged.”   

The goals of the 1972 Clean Water Act are to eliminate the discharge of pollutants into waterways and make all U.S. waterways swimmable and fishable.  Over the last three and a half decades, this landmark environmental law has made significant improvements in water quality, but the original goals have yet to be met.  

Using the Freedom of Information Act, Environment Massachusetts obtained data on facilities’ compliance with the Clean Water Act between January 1, 2005 and December 31, 2005. Environment Massachusetts researchers found that:

ï‚ Fifty seven percent of all major U.S. industrial and municipal facilities discharged more pollution into U.S. waterways than allowed by law at least once during 2005. The average facility exceeded its pollution permit limit by 263 percent, discharging close to four times the legal limit.

• 78.5 percent of Massachusetts’ industrial and municipal facilities exceeded their Clean Water Act permits at least once in 2005.  

• 102 facilities in Massachusetts reported more than 1200 exceedances of their Clean Water Act permits in 2005.

• Polluters in Massachusetts reported 85 instances in which they exceeded their Clean Water Act permit by at least 500 percent over the legal limit.  

 “Facilities in Massachusetts and across the country continue to dump more pollution into our waterways than is allowed by law,” said Crowell. 

Crowell noted that the findings are likely just the tip of the polluted iceberg, since the data that Environment Massachusetts analyzed includes only “major” facilities and does not include pollution discharged into waters by the thousands of minor facilities across the country.  

Over the last six years, the Bush administration has proposed or enacted numerous policies that weaken the Clean Water Act.  These include: two separate policies that eliminate Clean Water Act protections for streams and wetlands that are feed and clean treasured lakes, rivers and bays; funding cuts to EPA’s budget, including significant cuts to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund; and policies that allow more sewage pollution into waterways. 

Environment Massachusetts called on the Bush administration to end its efforts to weaken federal clean water safeguards and for Congress to pass the Clean Water Restoration Act, legislation to ensure all U.S. waterways are protected by the Clean Water Act. 

Environment Massachusetts urged Senator Kennedy to mark the anniversary of the Clean Water Act by joining the 172 cosponsors of the Clean Water Restoration Act including Senator Kerry and all ten members of the state’s congressional delegation: Representatives Olver, Neal, McGovern, Frank, Meehan, Tierney, Markey, Capuano, Lynch and Delahunt. 

“Instead of holding polluters accountable, the Bush administration is allowing more—not less– pollution to enter our waterways.  Now more than ever, Congress should step in to protect all of America’s waters,” concluded Crowell.