Some Preliminary Steps Toward Regulating Nonpoint Source Pollution

David Cassuto

At long last, EPA is taking steps (or beginning to take them) toward addressing nonpoint source pollution of the nation’s waters.  Nonpoint sources are pretty much all those pollution sources that cannot be traced to the end of a pipe.  The Clean Water Act is far less concerned with nonpoint sources than with point sources, a historical exclusion that has much to do with the fact that when the Clean Water Act was enacted, point sources were low-hanging fruit from a regulatory perspective, and were also the primary polluter of the nation’s waters.  The CWA has done a great deal to decrease point source pollution and the nation’s waters fare much the better for it.  However, over the last 4 decades, nonpoint source pollution has greatly increased in the absence of meaningful regulatory oversight.             

Nonpoint source contamination includes agricultural runoff, a status which has enabled factory farms to thrive in the absence of regulation.  This new draft strategy could be the beginning of something.  It also represents one of those potentially very meaningful types of environmental progress for which the Obama Administration will likely get few props.  So herewith a few preliminary props with plenty more to come if and when true reform occurs.

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