Today is the 30th anniversary of the Clean Water Act — and although the United States has made some strides in improving water quality, it has still got a long way to go. A whopping 81 percent of major wastewater treatment plants and chemical and industrial facilities in the U.S. contaminated waterways beyond what their permits allowed between 1999 and 2001, according to a report released yesterday by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. In more than 1,500 instances, the plants and facilities exceeded the limits set by their permits by 10 times; in more than 350 instances, they exceeded limits by 100 times. Releases of the most hazardous toxic chemicals — those suspected to cause cancer and other serious health problems — were eight times greater than permitted by the Clean Water Act, the report stated. The report’s author, Alison Cassady, said, “Polluters are breaking the law, not only frequently but flagrantly.” But U.S. EPA spokesperson Joe Martyak said the report exaggerated pollution problems.
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