P t:


  Water pollution  has been  recognized  as a
problem in  this country since before the turn
of the century. Although valiant efforts to main-
tain water quality were made in many states,
many water pollution problems  were so  wide
ranging that often they were  beyond the  indi-
vidual capabilities of state and  local govern-
  As  the 1970s  began,  two  events occurred
that were destined to change the  scope and the
priority of water pollution control in this coun-
try: The first was creation of the U. S. Environ-
mental  Protection Agency (EPA), centralizing
responsibility for water pollution control. The
second was  passage  of the Federal  Water Pol-
lution Control Act Amendments of 1972, which
mandated a sweeping federal-state campaign
to prevent, reduce, and eliminate water pollution.
Additional substantive amendments were passed in

Everybody's Problem
  Water pollution is caused by everyone—by
the way people live and work and use the water
and the land. Water becomes polluted when it
is  used in homes,  in  factories, and  in busi-
nesses. When wastewater is discharged through
pipes or sewers  it is called a "point source,"
and this form of pollution is controlled through
a national permit system which issues  indivi-
dual permits  prescribing the  types  and  the
amounts df  pollutants that a municipality or
an  industry  can  discharge into  waterways.
Historically, management and control of point-
source waste discharges  have been the major
emphases of the national water pollution con-
trol program.
  Now, however,  there  is  increasing concern
over other pollution that comes from "nonpoint
sources"—pollution that is carried over land
by rainwater or melting snow or which seeps
through the earth and enters  waterways  in  a
general manner, not through  a pipe or sewer.
Examples of such pollution include:
   • Rainwater running  off buildings  and
streets and carrying with it oil, grease, trash,
salts, lead,  and other pollutants,  which  be-
comes an urban stormwater problem.
   • Rainwater  washing fertilizers and pesti-
cides and topsoil into waterways, which produc-
es agricultural runoff.
   • Earth  which is  washed  into  streams.
rivers, and lakes from erosion, which comes of-
ten from construction runoff.
   • Water  in contact  with certain minerals in
mined areas,  which often  becomes  pollution
called acid mine drainage.

   • Water washing sediments from where the
earth has been disturbed from logging and tim-
ber  operations,  which  is  termed  silviculture
  Nonpoint pollution also comes from  septic
tanks,  poor  landfills,  or  underground  waste
areas  where water seeps  through  the soil,
picking up pollutants and carrying them into
waterways   and  groundwater.  Unlike  point
sources, these sources of water pollution  gener-
ally cannot be collected and treated. Nonpoint
pollution can only be reduced by more careful
management of our water and land resources.

Public Law 92-500
  On October 18, 1972, the Federal Water Pol-
lution  Control Act Amendments became Public
Law 92-500 and initiated the most comprehen-
sive program of water pollution control  in the
  The  law  established  national goals  to  be
achieved, assigned direct responsibility for im-
plementation of those  goals, and  authorized
funding  by the  federal government. It also
established detailed program planning responsi-
bilities for state and areawide governments and
  The  primary objective of the act is to "restore
and maintain the chemical, physical, and bio-
logical integrity of the  Nation's waters." To
achieve this objective and to attain the national
goals, the act provides for a number of authori-
ties, including the following programs:

   • Uniform,  enforceable national standards
for  clean water and  regulations  to enforce
those standards.
   • A national permit program for discharges
from all  point sources—industrial,  municipal,
commercial,  agricultural, and other facilities
that release pollutants  through  pipes and
   • Federal funds for construction of sewage
treatment systems,
   • State and areawide planning and manage-
ment programs to coordinate broad-based pol-
lution control decisions and to implement feasi-
ble methods to  achieve  clean water over the
long term.

The Public Role
  One of the major expectations of Public Law
92-500 is that the public play a key decision-
making role  in  all  water pollution control  ac-
tivities. Section 101 (e) of the act provides, in
part, that "Public participation in the develop-
ment,  revision,  and enforcement of any regu-
lation, standard, effluent limitation,  plan  or
program established  by  the Administrator (of
the Environmental Protection Agency) or any
State  under this Act shall  be provided for,
encouraged,  and assisted  by  the Administra-
tor and the  States." It can  take  only a few
committed people to awaken  a community to
a new  opportunity; members of the public can
be  the initiators  and catalysts  who  bring a
diversity of  interests together to  work  on a
shared goal. Local government officials have a
significant  opportunity to secure  the  benefits
of federal  and state  programs for their com-
munities, and with this opportunity there is  the
responsibility to encourage  public participa-
tion to ensure maximum benefit from the pro-
  Annual State Program. Section 106 man-
dates that states annually  assess statewide wa-
ter quality problems and authorizes federal re-
sources to help solve those problems. An annu-
al state program is to have at least five parts:

   • A summary of water quality problem areas
in the state.
   •  A description of individual state program
elements  (such as management of municipal
facilities,  permits, compliance schedules, plan-
ning, public participation,  etc.).
   • A five-year projection of resources needed
to conduct the  state program as estimated in
the state strategy. This projection will provide
a basis for continuous  water quality  program
planning  and  budget  justification. Included
should be  general financial and man-year re-
source requirements for  each  year of  the five-
year cycle.
   • A table showing projected outputs for each
program element during the next fiscal year.
   • A detailed resource summary sheet show-
ing specific financial and man-year allocations
for each  program  element  during the  fiscal

  Public input into the annual  state program
process can produce a tangible result, since the
program includes  the  allocation  of state  re-
sources to solve  water quality problems. The
preliminary state program is submitted by the
state  to the appropriate  EPA  regional office
on May 1,  along with the state strategy and
any revisions to  the continuing planning pro-
cess. These are considered and modified, and a
final state program is worked out by Septem-
ber 1.
  Facility Construction  Grants.  Section 201
 provides for federal grants of 75  percent  of the
 cost of  planning, improving,  or building sew-
 age treatment plants and sewers.  The 1977 amend-
 ments authorize grants of 85 percent of construction
 costs if the  facility will  utilize  innovative or
 alternative wastewater  treatment  processes  and
 techniques.  The  program  is  the  largest  single,
 federally assisted  public works program developed
 in this country since the federal aid to highways
  Construction grant authorizations  are distribut-
 ed  to states  by Congress.  Pursuant to the 1977
 amendments,  management of  the  construction
 grants program is to be transferred  to the  states.
 State agencies rank projects  by priority according to
 the  severity   of  pollution problem, population
 served,   and   other  factors.  Applications with
 sufficient priority  for available funds are forwarded
 to the appropriate EPA regional office for further
 review and funding. After a federally funded facility
 is in operation, the local government must recover
 operation and maintenance expenses through a
 user-charge  system.  It must  also  recoup  from
 industrial users an appropriate proportion of the
 federal outlay that went into its construction.
  The 1972 legislation allows the construction
 of treatment works to be funded in  three steps:
 first, for basic planning and selection of a solu-
 tion: second, engineering, architectural designs,

drawings, and specification; and third,  actual
  Guidelines for the construction grant program,
revised after the passage of the 1977 amendments,
specifically require that the public be involved in the
planning of sewage treatment facilities.
  Citizen participation should begin at step  1.
In this planning phase, decisions affecting size
of the treatment plant, the level of treatment,
and the size and location of interceptors  and
trunk sewers are made. These decisions, which
will affect growth rates and development  pat-
terns, are of vital concern to citizens.
  The  planning requirements  for municipal
wastewater  treatment facility  development,
most of which are in Section 201, are known as
"facility planning requirements" and are linked
to Section 208, which is oriented to regional or
statewide planning. Section 201(c) requires  that
"to  the extent practicable,  waste treatment
technology shall be on an areawide basis  and
provide control  or treatment of all point  and
nonpoint sources of pollution."
   Water Quality Management. Section 208 is
perhaps the  most   comprehensive program
Congress established under Public  Law 92-500.
The  program  can  tie  together   the  various
water pollution control and abatement require-
ments, including municipal, industrial, residual
waste, runoff, and groundwater pollution  con-
trol. The law places the responsibility for de-
veloping and  carrying out solutions to these
problems with state and local governments.
  Congress considered several points in insist-
ing on development of state and local decision-
making  powers.  First, the complex technical
and political problems of water quality protec-
tion vary so widely across the nation that long-
term solutions  to these  problems, especially
where the solution is not  suited to a national
standard, depend on actions by state and local
governments.  And second, much of the com-
mitment needed to resolve water quality prob-
lems rests with these same state and local  gov-
ernments.  Implementation  of 208  programs
may also require new legislation or institutional
arrangements for water quality control.
  Under Section  208,  geographic  areas with
significant  water quality problems are  singled
out for  areawide planning. An agency of local

governments is selected  by the  governor to do
the planning, and EPA  then provides funding
to develop a comprehensive program. A state
must perform  the 208  planning in all non-
designated areas within  its borders and must
coordinate its planning  with that  going  on in
the designated areas.
  In short, the purpose  of the 208 program is
to provide information for sound decision mak-
ing by state and local officials so that they can
take the initiative. Management is the key to
the process.  A 208  management plan should
be cost-effective, politically feasible, and, above
all, practical. What makes  208 unique is that
state  and local governments  must develop an
approved plan, with the commitment to under-
take whatever  action  is  necessary to achieve
the 1983 goals.
  Section 208  essentially provides  the only
authority presently available under federal law
to study,  manage  and control nonpoint-source
pollution. This type of pollution is a difficult
problem.  Because solutions  are  not always
obvious  or easy  to correct,  more innovative
approaches will be required than for  any other
aspect of the act.  While EPA will  do research
and provide  technical assistance to  208  plan-
ning agencies,  the answer to nonpoint-source
problems  must be  tailored  to each  region  by
management in  that area.  The 1977  amendments
authorized funds for the United States Department
of Agriculture to share costs with rural landowners
and operators for instituting  best  management
practices to control nonpoint  source pollution in
accordance with approved  208 plans (Section 208j).

  The  208 plan will  focus  on the area's most
critical water quality problems.  It must ad-
dress the items listed below in some detail:
   • Population,  household,  and  economic
projections for a 20-year period.
   • A summary of existing land uses (residen-
tial, commercial,  and  industrial) within the
planning area.
   • A classification of all streams and other
navigable waters into two types  of segments:
those which meet state water quality standards
now or which will meet them after  limiting
the amount of pollutant discharges on the basis
of national uniform  requirements (called  ef-
fluent-limited segments), and those segments
which will  not meet applicable  state water
quality standards even  with  nationally based
discharge limitations (called water-quality-lim-
ited segments). For the latter type, the state
water  pollution control agency, under  Section
303 of the law, will establish more stringent re-
quirements on allowable pollution.
   • An inventory of pollution from all point
sources—such as municipal and industrial waste
treatment outlets—and from nonpoint sources,
such as erosion caused by  stormwater  and
agricultural runoff.  Nonpoint sources  control
will be necessary in most  areas  to meet the
law's goals;  in some areas, in fact,  nonpoint
sources are the major water polluters.
   • Identification of new and expanded mu-
nicipal sewage treatment plants  necessary to
handle the  area's wastes for the next  20 years
and meet the state water quality standards.
   • Identification of methods to keep sludge
from polluting both surface waters and  ground-
   • Identification of new and improved storm-
water  systems for urban and industrial runoff
problems, with special emphasis on land man-
agement  controls  (on-site  detention   storage,
for  example,  would receive  more emphasis
than,  say, the construction of new pipes and
conduits for off-site treatment).
   • Identification of all regulatory programs
and land-use  measures to control nonpoint pol-
lution such as zoning, subdivision regulations,
floodplain regulations,  and performance stan-
dards—and an assessment of the time required
to achieve the desired results.

   • Identification of public agencies with the
administrative, legal, and financial capabilities
to construct, operate, and maintain treatment
facilities and/or  to  implement the regulatory
programs on nonpoint  sources. These are the
agencies that will  be responsible for actually
implementing the 208 plan.
   • An  assessment of  the  social, environ-
mental, and economic impacts of the plan.
   Water Quality Standards. Pursuant to sec-
tion 303,  Federal-state  water quality  stan-
dards  set forth  specific beneficial  uses  of
stream  sections,  the  water  quality criteria
necessary to support such uses,  the policies
which will prevent deterioration of water qual-
ity,  and,  in some cases, methods for  water
quality  improvement.  These  standards  pro-
vide the goals for the  water quality manage-
ment plans,  the pollution  discharge  permit
program,  dredge  material discharge programs,
construction  grant  programs,  land-use con-
trols, and other efforts  designed  to improve
or maintain water quality.
  Before  1972 the  law  required that  state
water  quality  standards  contain an  imple-
mentation timetable for the  construction  of
necessary  treatment  facilities.  Enforcement
was by standard setting or  enforcement con-
ferences.  In  effect,  the  major national  pol-
lution control effort was based on the enforce-
ment of water quality standards.
  In developing  Public Law 92-500, Congress
realized that pollution  controls based only on
the setting  and  enforcement of water quality
standards were cumbersome and  not particu-
larly effective. It changed  the law  from one
based principally on a quality  standard to one
based  on  the  control  of discharges  through
effluent limitations.
  Water quality standards  must  be respon-
sive to  the needs of society. The  law and the
EPA  regulations and   guidelines  for  water
quality  standards recognize this need and have
ample provision for public participation.  In ad-
dition,  the law forces such a  response by re-
quiring  the states to review and revise, if nec-
essary,  their  water  standard  at  least  every
three years.
  The  review and revision effort is a primary
function of the states; but, to better know what
changes  are  needed  in the  standards, others

should become involved.  Citizen  groups, out-
door  recreational  associations,   fishing  and
hunting organizations, resource-oriented associ-
ations, and other groups  are  sources of infor-
mation. By using these  outside sources and its
own expertise,  the state agency is better able
to revise  proposed  standards.  The  revisions
then are made available for further public com-
ment at public hearings held at appropriate lo-
cations in the state.
  The federal government also approves water
quality standards.  The state will usually ask
EPA  to  review the proposed standard at or
before public  hearings.  After  analyzing the
comments  received  from  public hearings and
from  EPA, the  state  adopts  the  standards
and asks for federal approval. If a  state does
not establish water  quality standards that are
consistent  with  national  goals, the  federal
government has the authority to set different
standards which will be consistent.
  People concerned with  or affected by water
quality should be aware  of and  participate in
the water  quality  standard review and revi-
sion process. There  are several points for con-
tributions: the first is during the Section 208
water quality management program. Here,  in-
formation on an improper use classification or
a vague criterion  can be made  known  to the
head  of  the appropriate  208 planning agency.
The public hearing is another opportunity for
the general public  and federal,  state,  and city
agencies to provide comments and support.

  Clean Lakes Program. Section 314 provides
for  direct  federal matching funds to states and
local  units of  government in  designing  and
demonstrating specific restorative measures for
publicly owned fresh water inland lakes. Appli-
cations received under the program are priori-
tized  for funding by the states on the basis of
the trophic status of the lake, the feasibility of
of the proposed  treatment measure(s). and the
anticipated public  benefit. Selection for fund-
ing is  made  without  regard to  regional  or
state  quotas  by  a committee of  EPA  staff
from  the headquarters research  laboratory and
representatives of the EPA regional offices.
  Discharge Permit  System.  The National
Pollution Discharge  Elimination  System
(NPDES) may be the most significant enforce-
ment  tool contained in the Federal Water  Pol-
lution Control Act Amendments of 1972 (sec-
tion 402),
  NPDES is a national permit program to con-
trol the discharge of pollutants into water-
ways  from all specific  point sources, including
industry;  municipal sewage  treatment  facili-
ties; certain agricultural, forestry, mining,  and
fishing operations; and other commercial activ-
ities.  It is administered by EPA or by an EPA-
approved state program.
  Congress designed NPDES  as a tight regula-
tory system with precise and detailed abate-
ment   requirements, enforcement  procedures.
and heavy penalties for violators.  Included are
these  requirements:
  •  National  effluent  limitations  and   per-
formance  standards are established by  EPA
for  sources of water pollution such as factories,
power plants, sewage treatment plants, animal
feedlots, and others.
  •  All  publicly  owned  sewage  treatment
plants must provide a minimum of secondary
treatment by -July 1. 1977. and the best practi-
cable  technology by July 1, 1983.
  • Industry use of best practicable technology is
required  by July  1,  1977.  and  best  available
technology by July 1. 1984, or not later than three
years  after the establishment  of specific pollutant
  • More stringent permit requirements than
EPA's maximum limitations may. if necessary.
be  set by the  state to achieve  quality stan-
dards  for water in rivers and streams.

  Under the water law it is illegal to discharge
any  pollutants  into the  nation's  waterways
without  a permit. The permit  regulates what
may be discharged and how much. Firm target
dates  are set. A discharger must reduce  or
eliminate his  discharges in an orderly fashion,
in specified steps, at specified times. Any vio-
lation of the permit is a violation of the law and
the violator is subject to stiff penalties that
are enforceable in court.
  The ultimate guarantee of the  permit sys-
tem's effectiveness is  that it must be carried
out under full public scrutiny. Permit applica-
tions and proposed permits are available to the
public. There is an opportunity for a  public
hearing on each permit application before action
is taken. The permit itself, with all its condi-
tions and requirements, is a public document,
and  all  monitoring information that  permit
holders are  required to report is also available
to the public.
  Public Law 92-500  authorizes any citizen or
group  of citizens  whose  interests are adversely
affected  to  take  court  action  against  anyone
violating an effluent standard, an effluent limitation,
or an order issued by EPA or a state with respect to
a standard or limitation.  The NPDES program
therefore enables every  citizen to  be a "watchdog"
over our country's  waterways.
  Dredging Control.  Section 404 of the water
law  can help prevent or reduce  damage  re-
sulting from  the  discharge  of  dredged or  fill
materials into United  States waters and wet-
lands. The core  of the program, which pertains
to traditionally  navigable waters,  is relatively
noncontroversial.  Other portions, however,  af-
fect  areas  outside  of traditionally navigable
waters and have changed the historical con-
cepts of water management. Operations falling
under this program's  influence range from the
construction and  maintenance  of channels  for
boats  to the promotion of aesthetic considera-
tions such as water turbidity.
   Public Law 92-500 classifies dredged and fill
materials as pollutants when they are dis-
charged into  United States waters.  Section  404
authorizes the  Secretary  of  the Army, acting
through the Chief of Engineers  to issue  permits,
after public hearing, for discharging dredged or fill
material into navigable water at specified disposal
sites. It requires  the EPA administrator to prepare

guidelines in conjunction with the Secretary of the
Army to use in issuing permits. (The secretary of the
army may override the EPA guidelines should there
be  adverse  economic impact  on  the site  and
anchorage.) The EPA administrator may prohibit
use of a disposal site if he determines, after a public
hearing,  that  a  discharge  will  adversely affect
municipal water supplies, wildlife, recreation areas,
or  shellfish beds and  fishery  areas  (including
spawning and breeding areas). Before reaching such
a decision, however, the EPA administrator must
make public his findings and his reasons.
  In an effort to make the 404 program manage-
able,  environmentally  protective, and minimally
cumbersome, a new general permitting system is
being implemented. This system will reduce the time
required   to  initiate  acceptable operations  for
discharging dredged or fill  material. It will also
minimize the effort required to process permits and
to ensure that local conditions and state controls are
taken into consideration. The  1977  amendments
provide that  a state may seek EPA approval to
administer its  own individual and general permit
program for discharge of dredge and fill materials in
certain  waters  within  its  jurisdiction.  General
permits are issued at the district engineer level. The
public may comment  on the kinds  and form of
general permits being considered; comments should
be  directed to the district engineer and to  the
responsible EPA  regional office.
Portions  of  this  material  appeared in  the
February,  1977 issue of Parks  and Recreation,
the official monthly magazine of the  National
Recreation and Park Association.

Produced by Region V,  U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency