Saturday, September 12, 2009

Why is water pollution worsening?

We in America take clean water for granted. We have heard of the water quality and access problems in remote developing countries, and are grateful we don't have to worry about such problems. It turns out, we have to. The New York Times initiated an investigation into pollution of American waters and revealed worrisome trends, such as that
in the last five years alone, chemical factories, manufacturing plants and other workplaces have violated water pollution laws more than half a million times.

The violations range from failing to report emissions to dumping toxins at concentrations regulators say might contribute to cancer, birth defects and other illnesses.
It appears that the reason for the increased number of violations is poor enforcement of Clean Water Act. For some reason, in the last decade, the Environmental Protection Agency has failed to punish the companies which violated the law. Likewise, the municipal water systems have violated the Safe Drinking Water Act.

What is going on? Is this another case of government failure? The EPA has historically done a pretty good job at reducing all types of pollution in the US. "Stretched resources", political interests and bureaucratization are perceived causes of this situation but so is the fact that "powerful industries have often successfully lobbied to undermine effective regulation." A coal company responsible for violations - but not held responsible - is in denial and claims that its actions reflects best industry practices.

This is all very sad. One would hope and expect companies to learn new lessons of corporate responsibility rather than forget the old ones.


indigo said...


shouldn´t you be able to sue the coal mining companies like they did in the Erin Brokowitch case?
Why aren´t they taken to court- Iam not familiar with the system in the USA since I am from Europe but shouldn´t it work this way?