Clean Water Act

Boy with clean water

In 2012, we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the passage of the Clean Water Act, one of the most important pieces of environmental legislation ever passed in this country.

The Clean Water Act (CWA) is the driving force that improves and protects Ohio’s water quality. We have truly come a long ways from the days when the Cuyahoga River caught fire. 

That said, our waterways fall far short of the Clean Water Act’s promise "to protect and restore the physical, chemical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters." For a detailed look at how Ohio's water fares against the CWA standards, read the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report for 2012.

The Clean Water Act is the basis for all water quality regulations in Ohio. The State of Ohio has applied for and received authority to oversee compliance with the Clean Water Act. 

The State does this through our own state water pollution laws in section 6111 of the Ohio Revised Code and our state water quality regulations in Chapter 3745 of the Ohio Administrative Code. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and Ohio Department of Natural Resources are responsible for many point (from a pipe such as sewer) and non-point source pollution programs.

The OEC uses the  Clean Water Act to hold public officials and polluters alike accountable for impermissible discharges. Individual citizens can also participate in Clean Water Act enforcement—in fact, the Act is specifically designed to encourage “citizen attorneys general” to help EPA enforce its provisions. To learn how, start with the OEC's Citizen’s Guide to Clean Water Act Enforcement.

Water Quality Rules

Ohio EPA has been working on updating its Water Quality Standards and Water Quality Criteria for more than six years now.   These important rule packages will decide how we categorize and protect our streams, rivers, lakes, and wetlands from pollution and from being filled in.  The OEC has worked with the agency from the get-go by participating in meetings and submitting written comments to help the agency strengthen the rules.

Protecting Lake Erie’s Fish from Power Plants

OEC has been involved in ongoing litigation over the millions of fish that the Bayshore Power Plant kills each year.   Lake Erie is the most biologically productive of the Great Lakes, and its fish population is the bedrock of our recreation, tourism, commercial fishing industries. Click here to learn more about OEC’s efforts to protect our fish from the irresponsible cooling systems employed by First Energy at the Bayshore plant.

Ohio River

The Ohio River’s name comes from the Iroquois word for “good river.”  The largest tributary to the Mississippi, the Ohio River carries water from 12 different states on the way to the Gulf of Mexico.  But this once healthy waterway is being overwhelmed with pollutants, from industrial discharges to agricultural runoff.  Learn more about OEC’s efforts to restore the health of this essential waterway.