Suit Claims EPA Fails to Enforce Clean Water Act

From a Times Staff Writer

Two leading watchdog groups filed suit in federal court Monday, charging that the Environmental Protection Agency allows more than a billion pounds of toxic contaminants to pollute the nation's waterways and sewage treatment facilities annually by failing to enforce the Clean Water Act.

Currently, the EPA provides strict controls over 24 major industries and 126 toxic pollutants. In the suit, the National Resources Defense Council and Public Citizen contend that at least a dozen industries and hundreds of pollutants escape scrutiny.

"There are gaping loopholes in the EPA's regulatory scheme," said Eric Glitzenstein, an attorney for Public Citizen. "The list of 126 priority pollutants was never intended to be exclusive. Thus, many of the rules do not control the full range of dangerous pollutants."

EPA statistics from 1987--the most recently compiled--show that California ranks second among states in releasing toxic contaminants into sewage plants and fifth in emissions into rivers, lakes and coastal waters.

An EPA spokeswoman said that the agency is complying with the Clean Water Act and has reduced the release of toxics by about 800 million pounds every year.

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