Billions of gallons of polluted wastewater spilled unchecked into America's waterways in 2005 as more than half the country's industrial and municipal wastewater facilities exceeded the limits of their Clean Water Act permits, according to a analysis of official figures released today by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that more than 20,000 bodies of water throughout the country are too polluted to meet basic water quality standards. In 2006, 32 states and the District of Columbia had statewide fish consumption advisories in place because of toxic pollution, the report points out.
Back then, 62 percent of industrial and municipal facilities were in violation of their permits. During 2005, there was a slight improvement - 57 percent of all permitted facilities exceeded their permit discharge limits at least once.
"As the Clean Water Act turns 35, polluters continue to foul our rivers, lakes and streams," said Christy Leavitt, clean water advocate with U.S. PIRG.
"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," she said. "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, said Leavitt, but the original goals have yet to be met.