A Summary of Why the EPA never Implemented the Clean Water Act, due to a faulty applied test.
By Peter Maier, PhD,PE
My name is Peter Maier and I am a retired wastewater engineer with sewage treatment plant design experience in Europe, United States and Brazil. Do not take my word for it, after you read the following information. I hope that you will do your own research and find that the EPA failed to implement the Clean Water Act and still allows open waters to be used as urinals.
Senator Muskie in 1972: ” This Act simple means that we can not use our rivers to treat our sewage any longer.”
The goal of the Clean Water Act was to eliminate all water pollution by 1985, but since that was not yet possible, Congress demanded initially ‘secondary sewage’ treatment for all point-source discharges. Secondary treatment, Congress was told, represented 85% treatment and when EPA implemented the CWA by demanding NPDES (National Pollution Discharge Elimination System) permits, it used the BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) test to set sewage treatment standards. The BOD test was developed around 1910 in England and measures how much oxygen bacteria need to break down organic, both fecal and urine, waste and requires 30 days. Because those bacteria using nitrogenous (urine and protein) waste in fresh raw sewage only contribute to the test reading after 6 to 10 days and their oxygen use also can be measured with a faster nitrogen test, it became acceptable, as a timesaver, to use the 5-day reading of the BOD test or BOD5 in combination with this nitrogen test. Although essential for the BOD test, this nitrogen test in many countries, was later ignored and many regulations now only address the BOD5 test value.
Using the BOD5 test without any nitrogen data is not only technically incorrect, but very misleading.
The same happened when the EPA set ‘secondary sewage treatment’ standards and addressed 85% of the BOD5 test. This BOD5 test value however only represents 40% of the total BOD value, hence EPA only addressed 85% of 40% or 33% of the BOD pollution in sewage. By doing so, EPA not only ignored 60% of the pollution that exerts an oxygen demand, but all the nitrogenous (urine and protein) waste, while this waste also is a fertilizer for algae, hence allows open waters to be used as urinals.
The result of using the BOD test incorrect.
For decades EPA claimed that this, now called nutrient pollution, was not intended to be treated under the CWA and that this pollution is the responsibility of individual states. Meanwhile our open waters are overgrown with algae, what is not only causing dead zones, but also closures of drinking water plants. This also is generating numerous lawsuits, as EPA now mainly claims that this pollution is caused by the runoffs from cities and farms, while refusing to correct the BOD test and still refusing to set treatment standards for nitrogenous waste in municipal sewage.
Blaming the runoffs from cities and farms for nutrient pollution, while the same type of pollution is ignored in municipal sewage does not make any sense.
The incorrect BOD testing is causing many other problems, as we still can not evaluate how sewage is treated and the possibility exist that multi-million dollar sewage treatment plants are designed to treat the wrong waste in sewage.
The very costly results of incorrect testing.
Before any more time and money is wasted on lawsuits and new regulations, EPA should be held accountable, preferable by a member of Congress, as they should make sure that the laws they passed are properly implemented. This also poses a challenge for the media, who for more than 30 years has shied away, claiming it was too technical to understand.
Need more convincing?
Read the following posting on this website or check this in any wastewater engineering textbook.
1. BOD Test. History and Description.
2. How a pollution test caused the failure of the Clean Water Act.
3. EPA Failed to Implement The Clean Water Act and Blames the States.