Marine Safety Unit Portland
US Coast Guard
6767 N. Basin Ave.
Portland, OR 97217-3992
Tel: (503) 240-9310
Federal Water Pollution Control Act (Clean Water Act)
Federal Water Pollution Control Act (Clean Water Act) (33 U.S.C. 1251 - 1376; Chapter 758; P.L. 845, June 30, 1948; 62 Stat. 1155). As amended by:
Chapter 928, P.L. 580, July 17, 1952; 66 Stat. 755; Chapter 518, P.L. 660, July 9, 1956; 70 Stat. 498; P.L. 86-70, June 25, 1959; 73 Stat. 148; P.L. 86-624, July 12, 1960; 74 Stat. 417; P.L. 87-88, July 20, 1961; 75 Stat. 204; P.L. 89-753, November 3, 1966; 80 Stat. 1246; P.L. 91-224, April 3, 1970; 84 Stat. 91; P.L. 92-50, July 9, 1971; 85 Stat. 124; P.L. 92-138, October 14, 1971; 85 Stat. 379; P.L. 92-240, March 1, 1972; 86 Stat. 47; P.L. 92-500, October 18, 1972; 86 Stat. 816; P.L. 93-207, December 28, 1973; 87 Stat. 906; P.L. 93-243, January 2, 1974; 87 Stat. 1069; P.L. 93-593, January 2, 1975; 88 Stat. 1924; P.L. 94-238, March 23, 1976; 90 Stat. 250; P.L. 94-369, July 22, 1976; 90 Stat. 1011; P.L. 94-558, October 19, 1976; 90 Stat. 2639; P.L. 95-217, December 27, 1977; 91 Stat. 1566; P.L. 95-576, November 2, 1978; 92 Stat. 2467; P.L. 96-483, October 21, 1980; 94 Stat. 2360; P.L. 97-357, October 19, 1982; 96 Stat. 1712; P.L. 97-440, January 8, 1983; 96 Stat. 2289; P.L. 100-4, February 4, 1987; 101 Stat. 7
The original 1948 statute (Ch. 758; P.L. 845), the Water Pollution Control Act, authorized the Surgeon General of the Public Health Service, in cooperation with other Federal, state and local entities, to prepare comprehensive programs for eliminating or reducing the pollution of interstate waters and tributaries and improving the sanitary condition of surface and underground waters. During the development of such plans, due regard was to be given to improvements necessary to conserve waters for public water supplies, propagation of fish and aquatic life, recreational purposes, and agricultural and industrial uses. The original statute also authorized the Federal Works Administrator to assist states, municipalities, and interstate agencies in constructing treatment plants to prevent discharges of inadequately treated sewage and other wastes into interstate waters or tributaries.
Since 1948, the original statute has been amended extensively either to authorize additional water quality programs, standards and procedures to govern allowable discharges, funding for construction grants or general program funding. Amendments in other years provided for continued authority to conduct program activities or administrative changes to related activities.
This latter set of amendments included:
appropriations authority through FY 1956 (Ch. 927; P.L. 579)
Continued authority to develop comprehensive programs for water pollution control, to provide grants to States and interstate agencies to assist in developing such programs and to construct treatment facilities, and to establish enforcement measures for pollution of interstate waters (Ch. 518; P.L. 660)
Extension of financial
assistance to the State of
eligible entities to include the 50 States and the
Extension of the FWPCA for three months (P.L. 92-50)
Extension of the FWPCA for one month (P.L. 92-138)
Extension of certain provisions through June 30, 1972, and other provisions through April 30, 1972 (P.L. 92-240)
Extension of the FWPCA through FY 1974 (P.L. 93-207)
Establishment of the formula to allocate treatment works construction grants (P.L. 93-243)
Extension of the FWPCA through FY 1975 (P.L. 93-593)
Increase in the authorization level for the National Study Commission (P.L. 94-238)
Establishment of a related municipal public works capital development and investment program (P.L. 94-369)
Authorization for a loan guarantee program for construction of treatment works (P.L. 94-558)
Additional program authorizations (P.L. 95-576)
Extension of certain
provisions through 1982 as well as authority for demonstration
programs to remove PCB's from the
revenue distribution to the
Modification of effluent limitations relating to biochemical oxygen demand and pH (P.L. 97-440)
Major amendments were
enacted in 1961, 1966, 1970, 1972, 1977, and 1987. The Federal Water
Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1961 (P.L. 87-88) stipulated that
Federal agencies consider during the planning for any reservoir, storage
to regulate streamflow for the purpose of
water quality control (33 U.S.C. 1252). Authority was provided to the
Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare to undertake research
programs related to determining effects of pollutants and treatment
methods and to assess water quality in the
The 1966 amendments (P.L. 89-753), entitled the Clean Water Restoration Act of 1966, authorized the Secretary of Interior, in cooperation with the Secretary of Agriculture and the Water Resources Council, to conduct a comprehensive study of the effects of pollution, including sedimentation, in the estuaries and estuarine zones of the U.S. on fish and wildlife, sport and commercial fishing, recreation, water supply and power, and other specified uses (33 U.S.C. 466).
The study report, due to the Congress three years following enactment, was to contain: 1) an analysis of the importance to estuaries to the economic and social well-being of the U.S. and of the effects of pollution upon the use and enjoyment of the estuaries; 2) a discussion of the major economic, social, and ecological trends occurring in the estuarine zones of the nation; 3) recommendations for a comprehensive national program for the preservation, study, use and development of estuaries, and the respective responsibilities which should be assumed by Federal, State, and local governments and by public and private interests.
Procedures for abating
domestic pollution which damages the health or welfare of citizens in a
foreign country were also outlined (33 U.S.C. 466). In addition, the
amendments prohibited individuals, except as permitted by regulations
issued by the Secretary of Interior, from discharging oil into the
navigable waters of the
The Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1970 (December 2, 1970) created the Environmental Protection Agency, abolished the Federal Water Quality Administration in the Department of Interior, and transferred to EPA all functions formerly assigned to the Secretary of Interior and the Department of Interior which had been administered through the Federal Water Quality Administration.
The 1970 amendments (P.L.
91-224), cited as the Water Quality Improvement Act of 1970, further
amended the prohibitions on discharges of oil to allow such discharges
only when consistent with regulations to be issued by the President and
where permitted by Article IV of the 1954 International Convention for
the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil (33 U.S.C. 1321). In
issuing regulations, the President was authorized to determine
quantities of oil which would be harmful to the public health or welfare
The President was also authorized to publish a National Contingency Plan to provide for efficient and coordinated action to minimize damage from oil discharges, including containment, dispersal, and removal. Related duties were to be assigned to various Federal agencies. The 1970 amendments also mandated that the President develop regulations to define substances other than oil as hazardous substances.
In addition, the 1970 amendments required that performance standards be developed for marine sanitation devices (33 U.S.C. 1322), authorized demonstration projects to control acid or other mine water pollution (33 U.S.C. 1257a) and to control water pollution within the watersheds of the Great Lakes (33 U.S.C. 1258). The amendments described the responsibility of Federal agencies to ensure that any Federal facilities are operated in compliance with applicable water quality standards (33 U.S.C. 1323).
Applicants for Federal permits or licenses for activities involving discharges into navigable waters are to provide a State certification that the proposed activity will not violate applicable water quality standards (33 U.S.C. 1341). Licenses and permits may not be granted if the State or interstate certification has been denied.
The Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 (P.L. 92-500) stipulated broad national objectives to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters (33 U.S.C. 1251). Provisions included a requirement that the Federal Power Commission not grant a license for a hydroelectric power project to regulate streamflow for the purpose of water quality unless certain conditions are satisfied (33 U.S.C. 1252).
In addition, the amendments significantly expanded provisions related to pollutant discharges. These included requirements that limitations be determined for point sources which are consistent with State water quality standards, procedures for State issuance of water quality standards, development of guidelines to identify and evaluate the extent of nonpoint source pollution, water quality inventory requirements, as well as development of toxic and pretreatment effluent standards (33 U.S.C. 1311 - 1313 and 33 U.S.C. 1315 - 1317).
Additional provisions further defined liability for discharges of oil and hazardous substances and the Federal role in clean-up operations (33 U.S.C. 1321) and established a Clean Lakes Program.
Section 402 of the 1972 amendments established the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) to authorize EPA issuance of discharge permits (33 U.S.C. 1342). Section 403 stipulated guidelines for EPA to issue permits for discharges into the territorial sea, the contiguous zone, and ocean waters further offshore (33 U.S.C. 1393).
Important provisions were contained in Section 404 of the amendments. This section authorized the Corps of Engineers to issue permits for the discharge of dredged or fill material into navigable waters at specified disposal sites (33 U.S.C. 1344). EPA was authorized to prohibit the use of a site as a disposal site based on a determination that discharges would have an unacceptable adverse effect on municipal water supplies, shellfish beds and fishery areas, wildlife, or recreational uses.
The 1977 amendments, the
Clean Water Act of 1977 (P.L. 95-217), again extensively amended the
Act. Of particular significance were the following provisions:
Development of a "Best Management Practices" Program as part of the state areawide planning program (33 U.S.C. 1288)
Authority for the Fish and Wildlife Service to provide technical assistance to states in developing "best management practices" as part of its water pollution control programs (33 U.S.C. 1288(i)(1))
Authorization of $6 million for the Secretary of Interior to complete the National Wetlands Inventory by December 31, 1981 (33 U.S.C. 1288(i)(2))
Authority for the Corps of Engineers to issue general permits on a state, regional, or national basis for any category of activities which are similar in nature, will cause only minimal environmental effects when performed separately, and will have only minimal cumulative adverse impact on the environment (33 U.S.C. 1344(e))
Exemption of various activities from the dredge and fill prohibition including normal farming, silviculture, and ranching activities (33 U.S.C. 1344(f))
Procedures for State assumption of the regulatory program, including a requirement that the Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service be involved in an advisory role regarding transfer of the program to the State (33 U.S.C. 1344 (g-m))
Requirement for development of agreements to minimize duplication and delays in permit issuance (33 U.S.C. 1344 (g))
The Water Quality Act of 1987 (P.L. 100-4) provided the most recent series of amendments to the original statute. Provisions included:
Authority to continue the Chesapeake Bay Program and to establish a Chesapeake Bay Program Office (33 U.S.C. 1267). The original authorization for this program, the Chesapeake Bay Research Coordination Act of 1980 (P.L. 96-460), expired on September 30, 1984
Establishment of a
Great Lakes National Program Office within EPA and a
Requirement that EPA, in conjunction with the Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA, conduct research, as part of the Great Lakes Program, on the harmful effects of pollutants on the general health and welfare (33 U.S.C. 1254). Such research should emphasize the effect bioaccumulation of these pollutants in aquatic species has upon reducing the value of aquatic commercial and sport fisheries
Requirement that states develop strategies for toxics cleanup in waters where the application of "Best Available Technology" (BAT) discharge standards is not sufficient to meet State water quality standards and support public health (33 U.S.C. 1314)
Increase in the penalties for violations of Section 404 permits (33 U.S.C. 1344)
Provisions that additional State reporting requirements on water quality of lakes including methods to mitigate the harmful effects of high acidity (33 U.S.C. 1324). Authorization for EPA to undertake a water quality demonstration program for lakes with an authorization of $15 million to States, with funds to be distributed based on relative acidity problems
Establishments of $400 million program for States to develop and implement, on a watershed basis, nonpoint source management and control programs with EPA responsibility for grant administration, program approval, and periodic program evaluation (33 U.S.C. 1329)
Authorization for a State/Federal cooperative program to nominate estuaries of national significance and to develop and implement management plans to restore and maintain the biological and chemical integrity of estuarine waters (33 U.S.C. 1330). Authorization to NOAA to conduct water quality research and trends assessment in estuaries of national significance
Requirement that EPA study and monitor the water quality effects attributable to the impoundment of water by dams (33 U.S.C. 1375)