Waterways that do not lie “entirely within one state, creeks that sometimes go dry, and lakes unconnected to larger water systems may not be ‘navigable waters’ and are therefore not covered by the [Clean Water] act — even though pollution from such waterways can make its way into sources of drinking water,” the Times report says.
Legislation known as the Clean Water Restoration Act would remedy this problem, but it faces resistance from industry lobbyists and conservative media figures like FOX News commentator Glenn Beck, who railed against the legislation last year.
Birmingham pipe manufacturer McWane, Inc., is mentioned in the article. An appellate court overturned a 2005 conviction of McWane for dumping in Avondale Creek in part because the creek was exempt from Clean Water Act jurisdiction under the new Supreme Court ruling. In December, McWane pleaded guilty to nine violations of the Clean Water Act and agreed to pay a $4 million fine.
A huge number of polluters may be exempt from Clean Water Act regulations and enforcement. According to the Times report, “midlevel E.P.A. officials said that internal studies indicated that as many as 45 percent of major polluters might be either outside regulatory reach or in areas where proving jurisdiction is overwhelmingly difficult.”