Writing for Your Water: A Citizen's Guide to Making Comments on Pollution Permits

Monday, April 2, 2007 - 12:00am

The Potomac River is on of the largest rivers on the Atlantic seaboard; it flows more than 380 miles through Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, the District of Columbia and into the Chesapeake Bay. The river provides habitat, drinking water, and recreational havens. However, pollution from many sources degrades water quality, threatens fish and wildlife, and poses risks to human health. Fortunately, you can make a difference by submitting public comments on water pollution discharge permits. Comments enable you to voice your concerns and advocate for improved water quality. Everyone has unique knowledge and experience to contribute. The best way to be heard is to write a comment.

The Clean Water Act (“CWA”) is the federal law that controls water pollution in the United States. Primarily, the CWA makes it illegal to release pollutants into our nation’s waters unless the facility obtains a permit under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”). Under NPDES, all facilities that discharge a pollutant from a point source into waters of the United States must obtain and comply with a permit. The permit regulates the amount of pollution that the facility can release into the water and sets other conditions, such as monitoring and reporting requirements. To ensure the protection of our water, it is important to analyze NPDES permits for potential weaknesses. The NPDES permitting program is a federal program, so the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) is often in charge of permit issuance. However, EPA may authorize states to administer the program within their borders.

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