Water Pollution:

Differences Among the States in Issuing Permits Limiting the Discharge of Pollutants

RCED-96-42: Published: Jan 23, 1996. Publicly Released: Feb 1, 1996.

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GAO reviewed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) authority to permit municipal wastewater treatment facilities to discharge pollutants into surface waters, focusing on: (1) differences in how EPA and the states control discharges of specific pollutants; and (2) EPA oversight of state water quality standards and policies.

GAO found that: (1) controls over the discharge of pollutants in surface waters vary by state; (2) differences in state water pollutant controls are a concern to neighboring states that share water bodies; (3) differences in state controls exist because surface waters differ greatly throughout the country and EPA regulations allow for flexibility in the way states assess and control water pollution; (4) EPA has limited oversight of state water quality standards, since it does not maintain sufficient information on state implementation policies or assess the impact of variations among states and it reviews relatively few permits; and (5) EPA plans to enhance its reviews of state implementation policies and increase its emphasis on controlling pollution within watersheds.

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