A look at the Motivating Factors behind the Passing of the Clean Water Act

The Federal Water Pollution Act of 1977 or the Clean Water Act as most of call it, states that it is illegal for any kind of pollutant to be dumped into the water unless it is in compliance with the law. The dictionary definition of pollution is “to make impure.” The first act that was passed by the government was actually in 1899 and was called the Rivers and Harbors Act. There have been several acts that have followed that one, all of them relevant to the water ways., one of the motivating factors behind the Clean Water Act was the Cuyahoga River in the northern part of Ohio. The Cuyahoga River is most famous for being the river that actually caught fire in 1969 and spurred on the Clean Water Act.

The Cuyahoga was so polluted that fish could not live in it, a river void of aquatic life. In 1968 the river was said to range in color from a gray brown color to a rusty color, visibility was non-existent and was reported as “grossly polluted.”  The Cuyahoga River alone is reported to have had at least 13 fires since 1868 with the largest of those happening in 1952 that caused a reported million dollars in damage. June 22, 1969 was the day that the river again caught fire but this time it caught the attention of Time magazine and they described the Cuyahoga River as being the river that “oozes instead of flows,” and the river where a “human does not drown but decays.” This sparked national attention not only to the Cuyahoga, but over all lakes, rivers, stream and oceans.

This  was the major push behind what today is called the Clean Water Act.   To this day, 43 years after the push for clean waters in the United States, the Cuyahoga river has much improved, but parts are still considered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be one of the “Areas of Concern.” It is however sustaining aquatic life in most areas and this is an amazing feat. The Cuyahoga River was said to be the big push behind the beggining of what is now considered environmentalism and not only had its affect upon the waterways in the United States, but also behind other environmental issues such as air quality and conservation. Today there are many groups that watch out for the environment and hopefully they are all making a difference, after all there is only one Earth.