Under the Clean Water Act
The Clean Water Act (CWA or the Act) expressly forbids the discharge of pollutants without a permit. The term “discharge of pollutants” means the “addition of any pollutant to navigable waters from any point source.” Any discharge of pollutants must be covered under a federal or state discharge permit (e.g., a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit for the discharge of dredged and fill material or a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for the discharge of other pollutants); otherwise the discharge would be in violation of the CWA. If it does not constitute a discharge of pollutants, then the release does not violate the CWA.
A flurry of recent cases around the United States has created a circuit split over whether the CWA governs discharges to groundwater that eventually add pollutants to navigable waters. However, there are a few points these courts seem to agree on. Continue Reading CWA Series: Do Discharges to Groundwater Require a Permit? Depends on Who You Ask