Clean water is vital to our existence. We've come a long way from the time when rivers were so polluted that they caught fire. Much of the credit for this cleanup goes to the Clean Water Act (CWA), established in the early 1970s by Congress, which reduced the volume and toxicity of discharges to the nation's waters.
Since the creation of the CWA, our country has made great progress in cleaning up discharges from factories, and experts agree that further regulation of these "point" sources will not accomplish a great deal more.
In fact, water quality professionals now concur that the largest remaining obstacle to achieving national water quality goals is control of non-point source runoff. Agricultural practices generate most non-point source water pollution (i.e., fertilizers, pesticides, sediments and other surface contaminants discharged to waterways from rainwater runoff).
Where CITGO Stands
How can we best address the problem? Some people have called for a dramatic overhaul of the CWA, but a more measured response could be more effective. Locally implemented watershed management plans, funded by those with a stake in controlling non-point sources, would be a logical first step and go a long way toward significant improvement of our nation's waters.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) already has sufficient authority to address point source discharges and many of these new concerns. Existing EPA projects on contaminated sediments, watershed management, and pollution prevention initiatives should be finalized first before the CWA is changed.
If Congress decides to reauthorize the CWA, CITGO believes provisions should be added requiring the EPA to do risk assessments and cost-benefit analysis before formulating new regulations to protect water. The nation will be better served if the EPA prioritizes the risks and uses common sense to target its limited resources on the greatest remaining threats to water quality.