The federal Clean Water Act is the fundamental law that requires protection of our nation’s waters, including Puget Sound.
The objective of the Clean Water Act, which was enacted in 1972, “is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.” To accomplish this Congress established the following goals:
- it is the national goal that the discharge of pollutants into the navigable waters be eliminated by 1985;
- it is the national goal that wherever attainable, an interim goal of water quality which provides for the protection and propagation of fish, shellfish, and wildlife and provides for recreation in and on the water be achieved by July 1, 1983;
- it is the national policy that the discharge of toxic pollutants in toxic amounts be prohibited;
- it is the national policy that Federal financial assistance be provided to construct publicly owned waste treatment works;
- it is the national policy that areawide treatment management planning processes be developed and implemented to assure adequate control of sources of pollutants in each State;
- it is the national policy that a major research and demonstration effort be made to develop technology necessary to eliminate the discharge of pollutants into the navigable waters, waters of the contiguous zone and the oceans; and
- it is the national policy that programs for the control of nonpoint sources of pollution be developed and implemented in an expeditious manner so as to enable the goals of this Act to be met through the control of both point and nonpoint sources of pollution.
Basic Structure of the Clean Water Act (CWA) Permitting System
- You must have a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit to discharge pollutants from a point source to navigable waters of the U.S.
- The NPDES permits set forth the requirements including effluent standards or limitations
regulating the discharge. The permit might also include monitoring and reporting requirements and implementation of best management practices (BMPs).
- Violation of the effluent limitations or the NPDES permit requirement is a violation of CWA.