I'm going to start a series here doing my best to put all that legal mumbo jumbo we've seen screens and screens of into simple language that everyone except for some garage cleaners can understand.



I've heard a lot of misinformation tossed around about the Clean Water Act or CWA. I see uninformed posts and documents all the time that say "The Clean Water Act says this...." or "The Clean Water Act says that...".

Most people who are saying this are simply quoting some misinformation they've read from someone else. It gets worse as it goes down the line like that experiment where each person whispers in the ear of the next.

In the late 60's and early 70's our waterways were a mess. Large companies including our own sewer treatment plants were dumping refuse and raw sewage directly into the waterways.

Something had to be done and congress adopted the Clean Water Act.

The act set up a system of regulations for who can dump into the waterways. Contrary to popular belief, the Clean Water Act in no way outlawed all dumping into the waterways! It simply set up a system to monitor and limit what can and can't be dumped into the waterways.

It has evolved a little over time. Some of the confusion comes because most people don't understand that the Clean Water Act, like most acts of Congress, just sets up a goal and then leaves it up to regulators to make up the rules and laws to conform to that goal. That is common in acts of Congress.

Fast forward to now.

Permits that allow for some discharge into the waterways are called NPDES Permits. Whoever holds an NPDES permit has "permission" (thus PERMIT) to discharge xxxx amount of waste into the "waters of the US". Permit holders are monitored and expected to work within the parameters set by the federal regulators who enforce violations with warnings, and/or fines.

I will get into NPDES permits more in another thread.

Initially the Clean Water Act was put in place to deal with the extremely large amounts of pollution that was coming from municipalities (cities, like their sewer systems) and large industries.

By the late 1990's the CWA had pretty much done it's original job. Waterways were cleaned up and industry and cities were under control and had developed BMPs or best management practices, that had worked wonders in cleaning up our waterways.

Even with the bulk of the job complete the CWA is still the law of the land. It still works to monitor discharges from NPDES holders.

No where in the CWA does the phrase "nothing down the dr@in but r@in" exist. This is a made up phrase that upon searching the internet on a date based search I found the earliest instance of its use was on Delco's DC1 website in the 90's. That website has since been removed from the internet.

Nowhere in the CWA does it address issues like runoff from mobile pressure washers.

There are, however, many laws and regulations that have come to address our industry in different municipalities in an effort to "regulate" discharges into the waters. I'll get into those more in later threads.

If you guys have any questions or if there are any officials out there who would like to add to the discussion or express anywhere I'm wrong about this simple explanation of the CWA please do so. We are all here to learn.