Stronger Efforts Needed by EPA to Control Toxic Water Pollution

Gao ID: T-RCED-91-81 July 25, 1991

GAO discussed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) and states' efforts to implement the Clean Water Act requirements for controlling toxic pollution of the nation's surface water. GAO noted that: (1) EPA and states did not identify many of the nation's impaired waters since most states monitored only a minority of their waters; (2) many of the strategies developed to address the relatively few impaired waters targeted for cleanup did not necessarily involve stricter pollutant limits; (3) some of the problems EPA and states encountered when trying to identify impaired waters were indicative of broader problems affecting their overall efforts to effectively control toxic pollution entering the nation's waters; (4) EPA has been slow to review existing effluent guidelines and to develop new ones to control toxic water pollution; (5) states were often reluctant to adopt numeric discharge limits based on EPA criteria; (6) EPA and state officials believe that noncompliance will be a particular problem for municipal facilities; and (7) although EPA and state officials are using alternative financing mechanisms to generate more revenue for program support and integrating prevention practices into their pollution programs, such barriers as reluctance to impose additional pollution control costs on industries hinder wider use of both approaches.

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