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What Is Water Pollution Control?

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Plastic bottle floating in a lake.
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  • Written By: A. Leverkuhn
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2014
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Water pollution control refers to the general practice of monitoring, observing, and regulating the injection of hazardous waste or other undesirable elements into public water. Pollution prevention initiatives can be undertaken relative to a body of water or a groundwater area. Governments on federal, state, and local levels make decisions about water pollution monitoring and other environmental pollution issues.

In the U.S., the Federal Water Pollution Control Act provides direction for water pollution oversight and control at a federal level. This law sets out standards and water quality programs, and it also provides funding for some pollution control programs. It is better known as the Clean Water Act.

Some grassroots activists actively canvas neighborhoods to promote clean water issues related to this and other environmental legislation. Many different parties can refer to the language of the act, which shows that the general aim of the legislation is to improve the quality of all public water, including waterways and groundwater areas. The act has been amended routinely to help provide adapted responses to changing water pollution problems.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is active in water pollution prevention work at the federal level. The agency provides specific forms of oversight for all kinds of environmental pollution. It also provides a lot of consumer information, as well as information for businesses, on their web site, where users can see more about what this federal agency does in each state or region.

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Agencies that deal with this problem look at various sources of water pollution, such as chemical elements coming from industrial facilities. Another common source of water pollution is nitrates and other elements coming from the fertilizers used in various agricultural projects. Other forms of water pollution may come from households, small businesses, or larger corporate facilities. They may be constant or variable sources that require vastly different responses.

Government entities treat water pollution control on a case-by-case basis. In local communities, municipal government boards may look at a specific control issue, and its particular impact on the properties in proximity to it. Local boards can often make temporary or even permanent rulings on land uses, but in some cases, they may refer a pollution issue to the state or federal department. Different prevention programs work together to get out accurate information about a pollution issue and then regulate it through legislation as necessary.

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JimmyT
Post 8

@titans62 - As far as the first question, the federal government's laws like the Clean Water Act are the absolute minimum for every city and state. If your state has a similar agency, they can set the bar higher, but never lower than what the U.S. government says. A lot of the states with their own agencies are typically more liberal and have a large contingent of people who are willing to make sacrifices for the environment.

For the second part concerning the Clean Water Act itself, it has a bunch of different parts and has been very controversial. It regulations "navigable waters of the United States" and breaks water pollution into point source and non-point source. The most current case, heard in 2006, is Rapanos vs. United States in which they discuss what exactly "navigable waters" and "waters of the United States" actually mean. The also deal with the term "wetlands."

In the end, it basically came down to Justice Kennedy's concurring opinion as to the way we currently interpret the law. Like anything, though, the next case could change the law again.

titans62
Post 7

The article talks a lot about the federal EPA, but my state actually has its own state agency that is in charge of environmental issues. Are they able to also regulate the water supply, or is the federal government the only entity that can do that? I guess it could also be the case that the state has certain rights and the government has other rights. Does anyone know?

Also, what are the various laws about water pollution control measures? I have seen the stories and pictures from before the EPA was formed and the Clean Water Act was passed where companies were able to dump whatever they wanted into rivers and lakes. I figure a lot of people have seen the pictures or at least heard of the Cuyahoga River in Ohio that actually caught on fire it had so many flammable pollutants in it.

Specifically, I am wondering about the CWA itself and the laws it sets forth for companies to follow in regards to pollutants.

stl156
Post 6

@jmc88 - Thanks for mentioning fluoride. I knew there was something they put in the water for teeth, but I couldn't remember what it was. I have heard that the fluoride has actually been found in some cases to be harmful. It is too much of a good thing, because once you cross the fluoride limit is starts to break down the enamel on your teeth or something. That's why you aren't supposed to use tooth whitening products more than a couple of times a year.

When I was growing up, my town also had a big problem with radon in the drinking water. That was one case where I really didn't like drinking water from the tap. For those who don't know, radon is a radioactive element that is found naturally in the ground. Some people have problems with it leaking into their basements.

The city always said it was safe to drink the water, but I was never too sure. That was before the Clean Water Act, though. I figure by now it is under control.

jmc88
Post 5

@nony - I would have to agree with SkyWhisperer on this one. Obviously, water is made of hydrogen and oxygen. Both of those elements by themselves are extremely flammable, but together they are the most important molecule on Earth. If they put the water through some sort of machine, I'm sure it just broke the water bonds and ignited the new chemicals. I can't think of anything that would be going through a tap that would be so unsafe that it could ignite. Like you mentioned, though, it was pretty obvious they were just using scare tactics to get people to buy their filters.

Like the article explains, the government has a lot of laws and monitoring in place to make sure that drinking water is safe. If they find a municipality isn't doing their job, they end up with a huge fine and likely lawsuits, so it is much cheaper for a city to make sure they have clean water. Almost every city adds fluorine to their water supply, because it protects tooth enamel. Besides that, though, there is really not much else that comes out of the sink that wouldn't be there otherwise.

Mammmood
Post 4

@MrMoody - You have to get specific about the kind of pollution you’re talking about to know if it’s safe or not. For example, metallic particles in small quantities are safe to drink in my opinion. Chemicals are not.

Local tap water is filtered so that it contains no chemicals, from what I understand, and has small amounts of metals. It’s okay to drink. I’ve never gotten sick yet and I drink it all the time, unfiltered.

MrMoody
Post 3

@SkyWhisperer - Not everything gets treated from what I understand. For example, most water that falls to the Earth from rain and so forth does not get treated. It goes directly to rivers and streams.

Some people argue that it’s no big deal, since rain water is pure water, but this is not necessarily true. It might contain pollutants. The worst example of this is acid rain.

So in my opinion all water should be filtered as part of a water pollution control plan.

SkyWhisperer
Post 2

@nony - I don’t know what stuff they were igniting, but most water from local municipalities should be safe to drink from the tap, despite hype to the contrary.

You can get a report from your local city government that will give you a breakdown of the particulate matter that’s in your tap water and in what quantities. Usually it’s well below the maximum established by the EPA.

I think it’s important to note however that threats to the cleanliness of the water supply don’t just come from industrial pollution. Most of that stuff does go through treatment.

It’s the household activities that affect water too. If you ditch that old paint or gasoline down the sewer, it will affect the water supply! It’s also illegal to boot. I think we all need to be conscientious about safe practices for reducing pollution and what steps we must take.

nony
Post 1

Despite the Clean Water Act and water pollution control measures that have been implemented in the last twenty years, the nation’s water supply is not safe to drink in my opinion. This was dramatically demonstrated when I attended a seminar by a company selling a filtration product.

They took some of our local water as a sample, and were basically able to ignite it in front of everyone. I am not sure how they did this since, of course, the usual consumer would not be able to ignite water.

But they had some machine that extracted the gas or something out of the water. They had an agenda of course, since they were trying to sell their product, but still, if the demonstration was as real as it seemed, then we were drinking water that was well beyond safe levels.

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