Carnegie Mellon University's David Dzombak Reviews Impact of Clean Water Act

Clean Water Act Celebrates 40th Anniversary of Restoring Nation's Water Integrity

Oct 30, 2012, 15:54 ET from Carnegie Mellon University

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 30, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Carnegie Mellon University's Dave Dzombak recounts the challenges and success of the Clean Water Act as it reaches its 40th anniversary.

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"Although the timeline for the act's water quality objectives were too ambitious, a system of federal, state and local cooperation was initiated which has yielded substantial progress in improving water quality," said Dzombak, the Walter J. Blenko, Sr. University Professor of Environmental Engineering and director of the Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research at CMU.

Dzombak points out that problems remain today with respect to our nation's waters; by contrast the problems in the early 1970s were more basic.

"Many communities had rudimentary or no wastewater treatment, and there was limited or no regulation on many industrial discharges; and many lakes such as Lake Erie were suffering from severe oxygen depletion due to inputs of organic matter and algal-bloom-inducing nutrient chemicals," Dzombak said.

The overall objective of the Clean Water Act of 1972 was to "restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation's water." Its broad scope encompasses municipal and industrial wastewater treatment, a federal permitting system for individual pipe discharges, development of water quality objectives, water quality monitoring and assessment, state water quality reporting, water quality in estuaries, ocean discharges, wetland protection and other aspects of protection and restoration of surface waters.

While there is still continuing discharges of raw sewage in many cites when it rains, and many communities still experience water contamination from long-abandoned mines, the Clean Water Act has helped improved our water supplies and led to many kinds of waterfront redevelopments such as recreational trail systems along our rivers, according to Dzombak, a member and chair of the National Research Council Committees that have examined clean water implementation in the Mississippi River basin over the past five years.

"Without the Clean Water Act, our rivers, streams and lakes would be very different places today," Dzombak said.

About Carnegie Mellon University: Carnegie Mellon ( is a private, internationally ranked research university with programs in areas ranging from science, technology and business, to public policy, the humanities and the arts. More than 11,000 students in the university's seven schools and colleges benefit from a small student-to-faculty ratio and an education characterized by its focus on creating and implementing solutions for real problems, interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation. A global university, Carnegie Mellon's main campus in the United States is in Pittsburgh, Pa. It has campuses in California's Silicon Valley and Qatar, and programs in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and Mexico. The university is in the midst of "Inspire Innovation: The Campaign for Carnegie Mellon University," which aims to build its endowment, support faculty, students and innovative research, and enhance the physical campus with equipment and facility improvements.

SOURCE Carnegie Mellon University