Clean Water Act

Elaine Thompson / / AP Photo

Facing pressure from federal regulators, Governor Jay Inslee has directed state officials to take another stab at updating clean water rules, tied partly to how much fish people eat. Washington’s current standards are out of compliance with the federal Clean Water Act. So last month the Environmental Protection Agency put forward draft rules that will become final in less than a year, unless the state comes up with their own.

Obama Administration Finalizes Clean Water Rule

May 27, 2015
U.S. Department of Agriculture

The Obama Administration announced a new clean water rule Wednesday. The Environmental Protection Agency says it will help limit pollution in streams and wetlands.

The rule is meant to clarify uncertainty about who can regulate these smaller waterways and water bodies.

Environmentalists say the new rule will keep drinking water clean. Lauren Goldberg is the staff attorney with Columbia Riverkeeper. She says this new rule will provide critical protection for clean drinking water and fish habitat.

Energy Northwest / Northwest News Network

Three environmental groups filed a lawsuit Friday claiming the Northwest’s only nuclear power plant is harming endangered fish. The groups are suing a Washington state permitting agency because they said it issued a permit that violates the Clean Water Act.

The environmentalists said the Columbia Generating Station in Richland discharges too much toxic material into the water. They said that material can accumulate in fish that people eat.

Photo by Chris Lehman. / Northwest News Network

And now a story about farmers and water. It’s a common and often contentious issue out here in the West. Well now farmers across the country are also riled up. That’s because the U.S. EPA wants to revise the clean water act. As Correspondent Chris Lehman explains depending on who you talk to these revisions are either a “land grab” under the “brute force” of the federal government or a simple clarification of rules that ensure all Americans have clean water to drink.

The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against the EPA calling on it to do something about the acidifying waters of the Northwest.

The ocean absorbs millions of tons of greenhouse gases every day, and those gases are lowering the ocean’s pH and causing problems for shellfish and other creatures.

Under the Clean Water Act a water body can be declared “impaired” if it is too acidic.

Then it falls on the EPA to regulate the source of the pollution that’s causing the problem. In this case – CO2 emissions.

Callum Black / Wikimedia Commons

A coalition of environmental groups that oppose exporting coal through terminals in the Northwest have announced plans to file a lawsuit against BNSF Railway and several coal companies. The groups say coal that escapes from trains is polluting the water and should be regulated under the Clean Water Act.

Photo by Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

40 years ago Thursday, Congress passed the Clean Water Act to reduce pollution in America’s waterways. Even four decades later, hundreds of towns across the Northwest are failing to meet clean water standards for their wastewater treatment plants. For most, that means costly upgrades and higher fees for households and businesses. The southern Idaho town of Burley is no exception. EarthFix reporter Aaron Kunz explains.

Photo Credit: Ashley Ahearn

Human beings are really good at paving stuff. Such as parking lots and roads.  Our development patterns have very real effects on water quality.

Photo by Ashley Ahearn / EarthFix

When the Clean Water Act was created 40 years ago rivers were on fire and raw sewage was spilling into some waterways. The Act has accomplished a lot over the years - reining in the largest industrial polluters and improving water quality, overall.

But there are some emerging contaminants the Clean Water Act was never designed to control, and they are affecting the environment in new and different ways. Ashley Ahearn has the latest installment in our ongoing EarthFix series “Clean Water: The Next Act."

Photo by Aaron Kunz / Northwest News Network

Farming is the single biggest reason rivers are failing to meet standards set by the Clean Water Act. EarthFix Reporter Aaron Kunz visited Idaho’s Pahsimeroi Valley for our series with Investigate West on this environmental law’s 40th anniversary. It turns out the problem isn’t so much what cattle ranchers and alfalfa growers are putting into the water – it’s what they’re taking out.