Friday, December 7, 2012

What are 303(d) Streams?

Freshwater is the most important resource on this planet.  Without it, humans cannot live.  However, with development and industrialization has come the pollution of freshwater bodies on which we rely.  During the 20th century, the USA reached a breaking point with its water bodies.  Estimates state that about  65% of streams were polluted, but no one knew for sure.  Some rivers so polluted from industry and development that they caught fire 
To bring water pollution under control, Congress passed the Clean Water Act (CWA) in 1972.  This October was the 40th Anniversary of its passing!  Under this act the EPA must regulate how much pollution industries discharge into rivers.  Under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act, states must compile a list of water bodies that exceed federal limits of pollutants.  Any stream on this list is called a 303(d) stream.  Prior to the passing of the CWA, there was no way for the public to know how many water bodies were impaired in their communities or which streams were unsafe.  Now, agencies must monitor pollutants in rivers and update the list of 303(d) streams every few years. Once a stream or river is on this list, it is considered a priority for water quality improvement.  This can be accomplished by strict permitting and enforcement on industry, or preventative efforts to reduce runoff.

In Tennessee, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) is the agency that is responsible for listing 303(d) streams.  For an updated list of impaired streams in Tennessee, click the link below.  Here in Hamilton County there are about 30 impaired streams covering approximately 200 miles.

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