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Clean Water Act’s Anti-Pollution Goals Prove Elusive

Forty years ago, Congress enacted the Clean Water Act to end pollution of our rivers, lakes, and bays. But today, in the Northwest and nationwide, most water bodies still don't qualify as clean and new threats to clean water are outpacing the act's enforcers. Full Story »

Polluted Waters: How Clean Is Clean?

Perhaps no one has been monitoring the Duwamish River's recovery as closely as Chris Wilke (left) and James Rasmussen. Wilke is the head of the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance. Rasmussen is with the Duwamish River Clean up Coalition.

by Ashley Ahearn

The lower part of Seattle’s Duwamish River was declared a Superfund site in 2001. That means the polluters have to work with the Environmental Protection Agency to clean it up. More than ten years later, the EPA and the polluters are close to proposing a clean up plan. But there’s still some debate about how clean this river should be.

Clean Water Act’s Next Role Could Play Out On NW Logging Roads

A log truck on the Trask River road, near TIllamook Oregon. Environmental groups say this road drains muddy runoff into the Trask river, in violation of the Clean Water Act.

by Amelia Templeton

A significant source of water pollution, muddy runoff from logging roads, is stirring up controversy in the Northwest. A lawsuit that began in Oregon will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. Its ruling will determine exactly how the Clean Water Act applies to the hundreds of thousands of miles of logging and forest roads.

Farm Pollution Draws Scrutiny As Industrial Dumping Declines

Joe Lemire ranches and grows hay in southeastern Washington. He's in a legal battle with the Washington Department of Ecology over its effort to require fencing on his property to keep cows from defecating in a creek.

by Robert McClure

When Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, its foremost goal was to halt the widespread toxic industrial dumping that left urban rivers in flames in the 1960s. Those problems have been largely solved. Now, agricultural water pollution is getting more scrutiny.

Polluting The Water With Toothpaste, Shampoo, And Drugs

Personal care products like these don't disappear when they're rinsed down the drain or excreted into the toilet. Small amounts can enter groundwater and streams. Scientists want to know what the toxics mean for aquatic life.

by Cassandra Profita

The water that goes down the drains and toilets of millions of homes ends up funneling into drain fields, septic tanks, or wastewater treatment plants. But that’s not the end of the line. All that water — along with everyday chemicals, pharmaceuticals and human hormones — ends up in groundwater, rivers, lakes, and bays.

Feminized Fish: A Side Effect Of Emerging Contaminants

English sole have been referred to as the "lab rats" of Puget Sound. Scientists are finding evidence of feminization in male fish near urban centers in Puget Sound.

by Ashley Ahearn

For all of the Clean Water Act’s successes, it was never designed to control contaminants that have emerged since its passage in 1972. These pollutants are affecting the environment in new and different ways. Consider the feminized fish of Puget Sound.

Cities And Towns Still Struggle To Control Sewage 40 Years After The Clean Water Act

Paul Gilliland is the mayor of the Eastern Washington town of Harrington. He's pictured collecting a sample of water that will flow into a lagoon. The mayor is getting certified to operator Harrington's wastewater plant.

by Bonnie Stewart

A major goal of the 1972 Clean Water Act was to stop cities and towns from discharging raw sewage. The federal government gave communities billion of dollars to build wastewater treatment plants. But those early grants are gone and those plants have aged.

One Man’s Crusade To Stop Water Pollution By Getting Sewage Testing Right

Peter Maier, a Salt Lake City-area engineer, has crusaded for three decades to improve testing of sewage, which he says would show the need for additional pollution cleanup to protect U.S. waterways under the Clean Water Act.

by Robert McClure

Peter Maier is waging a lonely campaign against the Environmental Protection Agency. He’s zeroed in on a test the agency uses to determine how far plant operators must go to treat wastewater before returning it to America’s rivers, lakes and bays.

How We Got Into Such A Mess With Stormwater

Laura James swims inside a stormwater outfall in Puget Sound that she has come to call "The Monster" because of how much runoff billows from it when it rains.

by Katie Campbell, Ashley Ahearn

The Clean Water Act took effect 40 years ago Thursday. In 1972, stormwater pollution was nowhere near a top priority. Today, it’s taken the lead as the top water contaminator. How bad is it? Puget Sound diver Laura James takes us where nobody wants to go — inside a stormwater outfall — to get an upclose look.

If Green Roofs And Rain Gardens Are So Great, Why Aren’t There More?

Grants helped pay for this rain garden to be built in West Seattle. Property owners who choose to build rain gardens see it as a way to beautify their property, increase property values and reduce pollution through stormwater runoff.

by Robert McClure

At least since the 1970s, Scientists and engineers have been devising methods to intercept contaminant-laced rainwater that sloughs off hard surfaces. Yet these methods still are not widely mandated, making stormwater a leading reason the Clean Water Act –- passed into law 40 years ago today -– has failed to meet its goals.

Clean Water: The Next Act - Where Do We Go From Here?

by EarthFix

Join us for a live online community chat for the anniversary of the Clean Water Act, Wednesday, October 17 11am-Noon. Our team of journalists will share some of the highlights from our Clean Water: The Next Act series of reports. And we'll bring other folks into the conversation to learn how communities around the Pacific Northwest are addressing pollution in local waterways.

Clean Water: The Next Act - A Radio Special

by EarthFix

The Clean Water Act is now 40 years old. Join us as we take a look back at the time of the creation of the Act in 1972, the water quality challenges we face today and the future of the Clean Water Act.

Share your experiences as part of EarthFix's Public Insight Network.