Clean Water Act Amendments – Secondary Treatment Waivers / 301(h)
In 1972, Congress passed the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments, which required Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTWs) to achieve secondary treatment capability by 1977. After passage, some municipalities that discharged into marine waters argued that this requirement might be unnecessary on the grounds that marine POTWs usually discharge into deeper waters with large tides and substantial currents, which allow for greater dilution and dispersion than their freshwater counterparts. This was the birth of the now outdated paradigm: "dilution is the solution to water pollution." This is a catchy rhyming phrase that is killing our coral reefs and threatening many already endangered marine species.
As a result of disgruntled municipalities, Congress added section 301(h) to the CWA in 1977, allowing for a case-by case review of treatment requirements for marine dischargers that submitted a complete first round (you get two chances to apply) application by Sept.13, 1979. This deadline was eventually amended to 1982.
Eligible POTW applicants that met the set of environmentally stringent criteria in Section 301(h) would receive a modified National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit waving secondary treatment removal standards.
In 1987 an important amendment to 301(h) prohibits eligibility to POTW’s discharging into stressed coastal or estuarine waters.
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