EPA Celebrates 50th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act

October 24, 2022
Recently, EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan, White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory, and Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox, along with national and local environmental leaders, gathered in Cleveland to recognize the 50th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act on the banks of the Cuyahoga River. Administrator Regan and others discussed the progress made under the Clean Water Act and its amendments, transforming waters that were once polluted into boatable, fishable, and even swimmable treasures.
“The Clean Water Act has played a transformational role in protecting people’s health and safeguarding our natural resources for the enjoyment of future generations,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “From establishing legal policy to driving technological innovation, the Clean Water Act has led to landmark standards, regulations, and protections for waterways across this country. Combined with other key initiatives and historic resources flowing to EPA, the Clean Water Act will continue to reduce pollution, restore and protect precious waters throughout the United States.”
“Water shapes our lives. 50 years ago, our nation came together and passed the Clean Water Act – a monumental piece of legislation,” said Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “While we’ve made incredible progress, we need to continue to move forward, focusing the ‘North Star’ for the Clean Water Act towards ensuring every community has access to fishable, swimmable bodies of water.”
“President Biden believes every person deserves access to clean water. When the Cuyahoga River burned fifty years ago, people from all backgrounds came together with one voice to demand action,” said Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory. “Today the Clean Water Act ensures healthier rivers and waters, opening up new possibilities for communities nationwide. Building on the progress of the last 50 years, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act make unprecedented investments in our nation’s water infrastructure so that we can protect clean water for generations to come.”
“Clean and affordable water is a basic human right that I have been working for since I was elected, and that John Dingell recognized long before many others did. The 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act serves as a reminder of all the good that can get done when we work together to protect our most precious, life-sustaining resources, and an opportunity to recommit to that critical work,” Congresswoman Debbie Dingell. “When John and his colleagues finalized the Clean Water Act more than five decades ago, it was widely criticized, and even vetoed by the president before becoming law. Still today we must work to strengthen the Clean Water Act for the future and defend it from those who seek to undermine it and roll back its protections. I thank EPA Administrator Regan and everyone else who has joined us in this fight for their efforts to protect clean and safe water for generations to come.”
In the 1960s, the Cuyahoga River infamously caught fire more than a dozen times, prompting environmental action and advocacy that, in part, inspired the creation of the EPA and the eventual passage of the Clean Water Act. Under the Clean Water Act, EPA has worked with partners across the country to implement vital programs that have reduced pollution, made our waterbodies safer and cleaner, and ensured businesses that rely on clean water can thrive. Since the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972, waterways around the country have been transformed into national treasures and economic engines.
Under President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, EPA has a historic level of resources flowing to the agency to support the work under the Clean Water Act. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $50 billion dedicated to water infrastructure projects, investing through EPA’s State Revolving Funds and through the Agency’s geographic programs and National Estuary Program to protect and restore treasured national waters. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is the single-largest investment in water infrastructure in U.S. history to replace lead pipes, tackle emerging contaminants like PFAS, build resilient drinking water and wastewater systems, and continue to protect one of earth’s most precious and essential resources.
To commemorate the anniversary, President Biden issued a Presidential Proclamation to reaffirm the nation’s commitment to safeguarding and restoring our waters and commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act.  It calls upon communities across the country to observe this milestone and to recognize the significant contribution the Clean Water Act has made to restore our Nation’s waters and to consider the crucial part clean water plays in each of our lives.
Learn more about the clean water progress EPA has made over the past 50 years by checking out our new StoryMap.
New Report: Curbing 90 Billion Tons of Super-Pollutant Emissions Aids Climate Fight
Minimizing refrigerant leaks and maximizing end-of-life recovery and reclamation can avoid fluorocarbon emissions equivalent to 90 billion metric tons of CO2 this century and help avoid climate catastrophe, according to a new report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development (IGSD), and NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council).
The report, The 90 Billion Ton Opportunity: Lifecycle Refrigerant Management, lays out this significant opportunity for federal and state policymakers, major corporations, and equipment owners and operators. Embracing Lifecycle Refrigerant Management can prevent fluorocarbon emissions equal to nearly three full years of global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions today.
“We humans have manufactured these potent pollutants that are being needlessly released when we have both the know-how and a huge value proposition for industry and the public to capture them,” said Christina Starr, Senior Policy Analyst from the Environmental Investigation Agency, and a co-author of the report. “The science clearly tells us we need faster and deeper HFC emission reductions to avoid dangerous climate tipping points and remain below 1.5°C of warming, and this is a very real opportunity to get them.”
“Refrigerant releases are an invisible climate culprit. Lifecycle refrigerant management provides clear and tangible interventions that can prevent the release of billions of tons of CO2e emissions across the refrigerant value chain to help us stave off the worst impacts of climate change.” said Christina Theodoridi, Industrial Policy Advocate for NRDC and co-author of the report.
Even as the world moves to climate-friendlier refrigerant gases under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, a huge and still-growing legacy of old, climate- and ozone-damaging gases continues to amass in nearly every nook and cranny of the world. The report outlines ways to get those fluorocarbon gases back into tanks and properly reused or disposed of. In the U.S., the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act – the legislation that phases down HFCs by 85 percent over the next 15 years – contains new provisions yet to be implemented regarding just that.
“The AIM Act grants EPA the authority to minimize leaks and maximize recovery, reclaim, and destruction. This makes a wide range of options available at the federal level to make lifecycle refrigerant management a climate policy priority,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development.
Many in industry agree that reducing wasteful refrigerant leaks and increasing the amount of refrigerant reclaimed is a worthy goal. “Increasing refrigerant reclamation is a win-win for businesses and the environment,” says Bruce Ernst from A-gas, a refrigerant reclaimer who was also a technical advisor to the report’s authors.
The EPA last week released a Notice of Data Availability requesting public feedback on current fluorocarbon recovery and reclamation practices, marking the start of national policymaking in this important area. EPA also released a proposed rule extending its HFC allowance allocation framework, which is responsible for administering the phasedown of virgin HFC supply, to the years 2024-2029.
Framing Contractor Directed Workers onto Roof Without Fall Protection
While federal workplace safety inspectors are used to some employers' disregard for workplace safety, the response of a Chicago-area carpentry company's site supervisor to an OSHA inspector's notification at the site about workers without fall protection exposed to the construction industry's most lethal hazard – falls from elevation – was especially blatant.
"The show must go on," said the site supervisor for KW Framing, Inc. – a contractor based in Justice – before directing employees to keep setting joists at heights up to 48 feet atop a multi-unit residential building in River Grove on July 18. When the general contractor became aware of the condition, the workers were removed from the roof.
Following its investigation, OSHA cited the framing contractor for one willful violation and four serious safety violations, and proposed penalties of $77,072. In addition to identifying violations for lack of fall protection, OSHA cited the company for a lack of guardrails on window openings, misusing ladders and exposing workers to unprotected rebar.
"KW Framing ignored an OSHA compliance officer's identification of hazards that could result in death, and company officials told the workers to continue while at risk of severe and possibly fatal fall injuries," said OSHA's Chicago North Area Director Angeline Loftus in Arlington Heights. "Allowing employees to work at dangerous heights without providing fall protection equipment is inexcusable. OSHA will continue to hold employers accountable when they fail to provide safe working conditions."
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 1,008 construction workers died on the job in 2020, with 351 of those fatalities related to falls from elevation.
OSHA's stop falls website offers safety information and video presentations in English and Spanish to teach workers about hazards and proper safety procedures.
EPA Settles with Guam Shipyard to Reduce Pollution at Apra Harbor Facility
The EPA has reached a settlement with Guam Shipyard to meet pollutant discharge requirements under the Clean Water Act to protect Apra Harbor.
“EPA will continue to focus enforcement actions on facilities that directly pollute coral reef ecosystems,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. “This settlement will prevent industrial stormwater pollution from impacting Apra Harbor and its important coastal resources.”
Guam Shipyard operates a ship repair facility on Cabras Island in Piti, Guam.  It has conducted industrial activities, including boat repair, maintenance, and material storage, since at least January 2016.  The facility is authorized to discharge industrial stormwater through a Clean Water Act permit.
In 2019 EPA issued an order to Guam Shipyard on stormwater discharge permitting and pollution requirements. Two years later the Shipyard and EPA reached a settlement regarding the same set of issues.
However, in 2022 EPA and Guam EPA inspected the facility and found violations of the Shipyard’s permit obligations. EPA inspectors observed the facility had a large accumulation of waste materials throughout the site, including debris, blasting grit, paints and oil which may discharge directly into Apra Harbor. Additionally, the facility failed to conduct monitoring and failed to submit required reports to EPA.
EPA is, therefore, now requiring the facility to:
  • Clean the site of spills, garbage, and waste materials
  • Implement Best Management Practices to prevent discharge of pollutants to Apra Harbor
  • Update its Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan to control pollutants
  • Submit monitoring reports to EPA
  • Provide employee training to prevent pollution from occurring
Chemical Processor Fined Nearly $200,000 for Violating More than 60 Safety Regulations
A manufacturing company that works with dangerous chemicals in Moses Lake is facing $192,620 in fines for 46 serious and 17 general safety and health violations.
Two Rivers Terminal, LLC formulates products for agricultural fertilizer, airports, pulp and paper, and water treatment. In addition to Moses Lake, the company has plants in Pasco and Umatilla, Ore.
“It’s fortunate no one has been seriously injured or killed,” said Craig Blackwood, assistant director for L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “The employer has been cooperating with us to fix the hazards, but the number and severity of violations is still alarming.” 
Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) inspectors found 13 violations relating to confined space entry rules due to workers entering rail car hoppers. The employees were going in the hoppers to breakup and dislodge ammonium nitrate without appropriate safety precautions. 
An area is considered a confined space when it’s large enough and arranged so a worker can fully enter it and work, but has limited or restricted entry or exit, and is not designed for someone to be inside continuously. Employees must have special training to enter and work in confined spaces and specific safety regulations must be followed. 
Inspectors also found employees working on top of rail cars and sulfur trucks without fall protection, and failing to make sure the power supply to dangerous equipment was turned off and locked so it couldn’t turn back on. Energy or power control incidents happen when machinery unexpectedly or accidentally gets power and starts up because the power isn’t shut off and “locked out.”
Violating safety requirements like these can have tragic results. In February, L&I cited a Sumas roofing materials manufacturer for similar violations that resulted in the death of an employee
Additionally, inspectors found Two Rivers Terminal lacked site-specific safety programs, including an effective training program, and wasn’t requiring employees to wear respirators while working with hazardous chemicals where respirators were required. 
Two Rivers Terminal has appealed the citation and fines. 
Inspections Find Dollar General Continues to Discount Safety
Dollar General Corp. and Dolgencorp, LLC – operator of more than 18,000 Dollar General discount stores in 47 states – has again ignored federal workplace safety standards, this time identified during inspections at four locations in Alabama, Florida and Georgia. The company faces $1,680,216 in proposed penalties after these inspections, a portion of the more than $9.6 million in total initial penalties the company has received since 2017.
OSHA conducted inspections in April 2022 in Mobile and Grove Hill, Alabama; Tampa, Florida; and Dewy Rose, Georgia. Inspectors cited the retailer for four willful and 10 repeat violations for failing to keep receiving and storage areas clean and orderly, and stacking materials in an unsafe manner. These violations exposed workers to hazards associated with slips, trips and being struck-by objects.
OSHA citations also included those for exposing workers to fire and entrapment hazards by failing to keep exit routes and electrical panels clear and unobstructed. Finally, the company received citations for failing to mount and label fire extinguishers and having a locked exit door that required a key to open.  
Since 2017, OSHA has conducted 182 inspections at Dollar General locations nationwide where agency inspectors often find unsafe conditions that put workers' safety at risk if they need to exit quickly in an emergency.
“Once again, our inspectors have found Dollar General stores ignoring federal safety standards and exposing their employees to hazardous working conditions in violation of the law,” Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker said. “We will use our full enforcement powers to hold Dollar General accountable for its ongoing pattern of behavior until they show that they take worker safety seriously.”  
The violations found in the April inspections mirror the types typically found by OSHA at Dollar General locations across the nation, and those identified in the last 11 months at five other stores in the Southeast.
In December 2021, an inspection in Mobile led OSHA to propose $321,827 in penalties for exposing workers to slip and trip hazards, and not keeping the main storeroom orderly to allow a safe exit in an emergency. In February 2022, OSHA proposed $1,048,309 in penalties after inspections at three other Mobile locations and one in Dalton, Georgia, found similar hazards. In August 2022, after inspections at three other Georgia locations, OSHA proposed $1,292,783 in penalties for exposing workers to fire and entrapment hazards by failing to keep exit routes and electrical panels clear and unobstructed.
Based in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, Dollar General Corp. and Dolgencorp, LLC operate about 18,000 stores and 17 distribution centers around the nation and employ more than 150,000 workers.
Free Amazon HD 10 Tablet with RCRA and DOT Training
Annual training is required by 40 CFR 262.17(a)(7).  Learn how to complete EPA’s new electronic hazardous waste manifest, and the more than 60 changes in EPA’s Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule.  Environmental Resource Center’s Hazardous Waste Training is available at nationwide locations, and via live webcasts.  If you plan to also attend DOT Hazardous Materials Training, call 800-537-2372 to find out how can get your course materials on an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet at no extra charge.
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