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Water, water everywhere

Updated: Jun 6, 2020

The Housatonic River

Forty years ago this week, President Richard Nixon signed the Clean Water Act of 1972.  That legislation spawned a generation of both major improvements in our water supplies and (alas!) much ongoing litigation.

Earlier today, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies held a policy forum in Washington, DC to commemorate this legislation and explore how the Act’s Congressional intent matches today’s reality. The forum’s highlight was a panel discussion titled “A 2020 Vision for Clean Water” and it featured our senior counsel/senior advocate Les Edelman.

Les was the former Counsel to the U.S. House Committee on Public Works and Transportation when the Clean Water Act was negotiated.  Few people know more about the bill’s genesis than Les and hearing him discuss not only the Act’s language but the rationale for various sections of the Act was remarkable.

As Les noted in his remarks, the Clean Water Act cannot be fully understood without an appreciation for prior environmental legislation and attempts at regulation.  In particular, Les cited the experience of the River and Harbor Act of 1899 (“Refuse Act”) for its influence on lawmakers’ attempts to negotiate the Clean Water Act’s language.

In a future blog, Les will discuss this issue in greater detail.  But for now, here’s a copy of his testimony.  Incidentally, NACWA videotaped the session and we understand that the video will be made available for viewing.

Maj. Gen. (Ret) Don Riley

Senior Vice President

Gen. Riley is a former Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Mississippi Valley Division.


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