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The basic authority for federal enforcement in water pollution is the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (Public Law 84-660, as amended, 33 USC 1151). The Environmental Protection Agency has been charged with the administration and enforcement of this act. The act declares the policy of Congress "to recognize, preserve and protect the primary responsibilities and rights of the states in preventing and controlling water pollution."
The 3 basic enforcement tools of the Environmental Protection Agency are the "Enforcement Conference" as set out in P.L. 84-660, as amended; the "180-day Notice" under the Water Quality Standards provisions of P.L. 84-660, as amended; and the "Permit Program" as authorized by Executive Order No. 11574, December 23, 1970, to enforce the 1899 Refuse Act (33 USC 407).
One significant policy of EPA was announced October 15, 1970, stating opposition to the disposal or storage of wastes by subsurface injection except where it is used as a last resort and meets certain criteria set out in the policy statement.
On June 25, 1971, EPA released its "Guidelines on Water Pollution Enforcement." The general guidelines for selection of cases are: (1) volume and nature of discharges, (2) effects on receiving waters, (3) failure of dischargers to make satisfactory progress in abatement efforts, and (4) relationship to an area-wide program.
The general guideline for use of the Refuse Act is that it may be used at the present time only against industries. It is applicable only to navigable waters and their tributaries. It is applicable regardless of interstate effects.
The Water Quality Act of 1965 (P.L. 89-234) requires the establishment of water quality standards for interstate waters by the states, together with an implementation and enforcement plan. Should the state not establish such standards, there is provision for the Administrator of EPA to promulgate the water quality standards.
The private nuisance suit is an old and long-used remedy available to the private citizen. Some new state legislation now provides for class actions in pollution cases.
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