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Are You in Violation of the Clean Water Act?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates water in many ways, with one of its more paramount functions being to enforce the Clean Water Act (CWA). The CWA was enacted in the 1940s, under the name Federal Water Pollution Control Act, as a means to regulate the discharge of pollutants into particular waters.

Today, the CWA requires a permit for discharge of pollutants, called the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, and a person or organization will need an NPDES permit if they are discharging pollutants from a point source into waters of the United States. A “point source” for purposes of the CWA’s requirement of a NPDES permit does not include homes connected to most houses, but rather it includes sources like:

  • Pipes;
  • Ditches;
  • Channels;
  • Tunnels;
  • Conduits;
  • Fissures;
  • Containers;
  • Vessels; and
  • Concentrated animal feeding operations.

The type of water you are discharging into is the second key component triggering the requirement of the NPDES permit. Water that is considered “waters of the United States” cannot be discharged into without the permit. Water with this classification includes:

  • Navigable waters and their tributaries;
  • Interstate waters and some intrastate waters; and
  • Oceans out to 200 miles.

Essentially, most waters sources are considered waters of the United States under the CWA but there are nuances that require experienced legal interpretation.

If you are investigated for violation of the Clean Water Act, you need to be aware that the federal government can charge you criminally in certain situations. Instances where you can be punished for criminal violation of the CWA include but are not limited to:

  • Negligently or knowingly discharging without a permit;
  • Negligently or knowingly discharging hazardous materials or oil; or
  • Failing to report discharge hazardous materials or oil.

Penalties associated with criminal violations of the Clean Water Act range from 1 to 6 years of incarceration and up to $100,000 per day in fines depending on the charge alleged.

If You’ve Been Charged with Violating the Clean Water Act or Other Environmental Regulations, Call Us Today for Help

Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A., is an experienced South Florida criminal defense attorney with over 20 years of criminal defense practice in all areas including federal environmental crimes. The penalties for violation of the CWA are serious and require legal counsel at all stages of your case. It is imperative that you contact an attorney right away if you have been charged. Call today for a consultation.

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