Water: Office of Wetlands, Oceans & Watersheds
Laws, Regulations, Treaties (Permitting)
Clean Water Act Section 404 of the Clean Water Act establishes a program to regulate the discharge of dredged and fill material into waters of the United States, including wetlands. Activities in waters of the United States that are regulated under this program include fills for development, water resource projects (such as dams and levees), infrastructure development (such as highways and airports), and conversion of wetlands to uplands for farming and forestry.
Marine and Ocean Discharges
Two sections of the CWA deal specifically with discharges to marine and ocean waters. Under CWA section 403, any discharge to the territorial seas or beyond also must comply with the Ocean Discharge Criteria established under CWA section 403. CWA section 301(h), added to the CWA in 1977, provides for a publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) that discharge to marine waters to apply for a waiver of the Act's secondary treatment requirements, provided they can show compliance with stringent criteria intended to assure their discharge will not adversely affect the marine environment.
The Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA, also known as the Ocean Dumping Act) prohibits the dumping of material into the ocean that would unreasonably degrade or endanger human health or the marine environment. Virtually all material ocean dumped today is dredged material (sediments) removed from the bottom of waterbodies in order to maintain navigation channels and berthing areas. Other materials that are currently ocean disposed include fish wastes, human remains, and vessels.
Water pollution degrades surface waters making them unsafe for drinking, fishing, swimming, and other activities. As authorized by the Clean Water Act, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program controls water pollution by regulating point sources that discharge pollutants into waters of the United States.