Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, setting forth the goal of restoring and maintaining the nation’s waters in order to protect fish and wildlife and safeguard health, safety and enjoyment for people. Although some progress has been achieved over 40 years, much work still remains to be done.
Today, many rivers and streams have poor water quality and decreasing biological diversity caused by pollution from agriculture, industry, transportation systems, urban runoff, sprawling development and municipal treatment plants. Some state procedures allow permits for discharging greatly increased levels of pollutants into waterways without seriously studying alternatives.
What is ELPC Doing?
From the Midwest’s most iconic waterways – the Mississippi River and Great Lakes – to the creeks, brooks and streams that make up more than half the river-miles in the nation, ELPC is working to make sure the Clean Water Act is implemented and enforced well. Our legal team works with grassroots community organizations to protect local water resources and provides leadership on regional water quality issues affecting the Mississippi River and Great Lakes watersheds. Our work often provides a model for how strong water policies can work well across the region and nation. Some focuses of our work include:
- Cleaning Up the Chicago River – More than a million gallons of wastewater is dumped into the Chicago River each day. For decades, Chicago was one of the only major U.S. cities that didn’t require that wastewater to be disinfected prior to discharge, making the river unsafe for swimmers and kayakers. ELPC and allies changed all that with a historic win in 2011. Now we’re working to make sure the newly adopted policy is implemented effectively, to make the river healthier for aquatic life, and to reduce combined-sewer overflows that plague the river on rainy days.
- Preserving the Great Lakes – ELPC works to protect the Great Lakes from unnecessary new pollution from power plants, pipelines, rural and urban runoff, and other sources. At the same time, we’re advocating to secure critical funds to help clean up toxic sites, curb the spread of invasive species, protect and restore habitat and reduce pollution.
- Protecting the Mississippi River – ELPC is a part of the Mississippi River Water Quality Collaborative, a diverse group of more than 20 regional and national non-profit organizations devoted to protecting our nation’s largest river. Our attorneys work with the Collaborative to advance anti-degradation standards that help keep clean water clean, promote better water quality standards, and implement and enforce existing water quality standards. We are the Midwest’s legal watchdogs making sure the Clean Water Act is working.
- Watchdogging Water Pollution Issues in Other Midwest Rivers & Lakes – Water resources are so interconnected that we cannot hope to protect our iconic waterways – the Mighty Mississippi and Great Lakes – without also protecting the steady streams and neighborhood lakes that feed them. ELPC public interest attorneys regularly represent grassroots clients in cases and policy campaigns to protect various Midwest rivers and lakes from mining pollution, agricultural and urban runoff, wastewater discharges, and other sources of pollution.