In the late 60's and early 70's, oil spills, river fires, and toxic waste put a national spotlight on our country's serious water pollution problems. As a result, Congress voted with overwhelming bipartisan support to enact the Clean Water Act (CWA) in 1972.
The passage of the CWA finally gave regulatory agencies the authority to hold polluters accountable, to regulate the discharge of pollution, and to establish water quality standards for our ailing waterways.
While the CWA has not acheived its ultimate goal of restoring all of our waters to “fishable, swimmable," this landmark legislation has resulted in significant improvements for the St. Johns River and many of our nation’s waters. And, that is something definitely worth celebrating!
- A 1966 Ocala newspaper editorial stated that "ninety percent of the raw human sewage dumped in all of Florida's rivers goes into the St. Johns in Duval County. Tributaries feeding into it are open sewers."
- In 1970, a U.S. Senator called the St. Johns “a cesspool” and Governor Claude Kirk said, "If you fall in, you will die of pollution before you drown."
- In 1971, the Duval County Health Department reported that one could contract 27 different communicable diseases by swimming across the St. Johns near the Main Street Bridge.
While we have made progress, we still have a long way to go. For instance, more than half of our rivers and lakes in Florida have poor water quality. While only 20% of the river and stream miles in Florida have been assessed, 80% of those waterways do not meet CWA water quality standards.
So, on this 40th birthday for the Clean Water Act, let’s celebrate how far we have come in 40 years, and recommit ourselves to the goal of making the St. Johns and ALL of our waterways "fishable, swimmable."
Clean Water Act 40th Birthday Party
Wednesday, October 24th 6 – 9 pm
Sadler Point Marine Center
Learn more on our events page.
Read more about the Clean Water Act, anniversary events, and activities taking place across the country:
This Environmental Protection Agency website includes Anniversary Video Project, Milestones, Clean Water Act 101, and Teacher Resources.
A Bolder Clean Water Act for the Next 40 Years by Sandra Postel, Director of the Global Water Policy Project
Happy 40th anniversary – Clean Water Act! by Judy Peterson, rocket scientist turned environmental activist
The Clean Water Act: 40 Years Later by Alexandra Cousteau
The Clean Water Act Turns 40 by Russell McClendon