Clean Water Advocacy - News Releases - April 4, 2000

April 4, 2000
Contact: John Millett, 202/833-4651, AMSA

AMSA Helps Win a Clear Victory for Clean Water

Washington, DC — In a March 30, 1999 court victory for clean water, the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies (AMSA) has helped win the first-ever court opinion on the Clean Water Act's authority over nonpoint source pollution. The United States District Court for the Northern District of California has ruled that all sources of water pollution — whether from “nonpoint sources” such as agriculture and logging or from “point sources” such as industrial or municipal facilities — must be included in total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) (Pronsolino v. EPA, No. C 99-01828). TMDLs are called for in the Clean Water Act to clean up impaired rivers, lakes and coastal areas for which existing controls are inadequate to meet water quality standards.

The Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies (AMSA) intervened in Pronsolino v. EPA on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect the interests of the nation's publicly owned wastewater treatment agencies. AMSA's members serve the majority of the sewered population in the United States and collectively treat and reclaim over 18 billion gallons of wastewater each day. The Pronsolino v. EPA decision is extremely important because it rejects a bid to exempt nonpoint source pollution from TMDLs. The decision also affirms EPA's oversight role in state implementation of TMDLs. According to EPA, nonpoint source pollution is the largest remaining obstacle to attaining the Clean Water Act's stated goal to “protect the physical, chemical and biological health of the nation's waters.” AMSA entered the case over concerns that if nonpoint source pollution were excluded from TMDLs, not only would an unacceptable number of waters across the country remain impaired, but point sources such as municipal wastewater treatment plants could be responsible for cleaning up someone else's pollution — a costly situation for America's communities that would not result in cleaner water.

“This ruling should put to rest any questions about the Clean Water Act's scope,” AMSA Executive Director Ken Kirk said. “It sends a clear message that Congress intended the Act to address all forms of water pollution. Now, everyone with a stake in cleaning the nation's waters — EPA, Congress, states, local governments, industry and agriculture — can move forward, together, in finding solutions to America's remaining water quality challenges. AMSA stands ready to work toward finding solutions, which include a combination of better water quality data, technical assistance and funding for implementing nonpoint source controls,” Kirk said.

Presiding over the case, Judge William Alsup held that under the Clean Water Act's “comprehensive scheme, no substandard river or water was immune by reason of its sources of pollution.” The Judge reiterated that “as to whether TMDLs were authorized in the first place for all substandard rivers and waters, there is no doubt.” Judge Alsup also stated that “any polluted waterway — whether its sources were point, nonpoint or a combination — had to be listed. To have excluded the large number of rivers and waters polluted solely by agricultural and logging runoff would have left a chasm in the otherwise 'comprehensive' statutory scheme.” Copies of the decision are available on AMSA's web site,

# # #