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EPA's Region 6 Office

Serving: Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and 66 Tribal Nations

Clean Water Act

Clean Water ActThis Act is the principle law governing pollution control and water quality of the Nation's waterways. The objective of this Act is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the Nation's waters (33 U.S.C. 1251). The Act has been amended numerous times and given a number of titles and codification. It was originally enacted as the Water Pollution Control Act in 1948 (P.L. 80-845), and was completely revised by the 1972 amendments, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments (P.L. 92-500). The 1972 amendments gave the Act its current form, and established a national goal that all waters of the U.S. should be fishable and swimmable. The goal was to be achieved by eliminating all pollutant discharges into waters of the U.S. by 1985 with an interim goal of making the waters safe for fish, shellfish, wildlife and people by July 1, 1983 (86 Stat. 816, 33 U.S.C. 1251) . The 1977 amendments (the Clean Water Act of 1977 (P.L. 95-217)) gave the Act its current title. Additional amendments were enacted in 1981 (Municipal Wastewater Treatment Construction Grants Amendments (P.L. 97-117)) and in 1987 (Water Quality Act of 1987 (P.L. 100-4).  The Act regulates discharges to waters of the United States through permits issued under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting program. The Water Quality Protection Division, issues the NPDES permits and the Water Enforcement Branch assures that all discharges comply with the NPDES permits.

The Water Enforcement Branch has three Sections that assure compliance with the NPDES permitting program: 1) the Texas-New Mexico NPDES Section; 2) the Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahomas NPDES Section; and 3) the Compliance Monitoring Section. The Sections perform technical, scientific and administrative review and evaluation necessary for the enforcement of the NPDES program under the CWA. The Sections assure the adequacy and validity of technical and scientific data and findings in developing and issuing administrative orders, administrative penalty orders, and in referrals to the Department of Justice. The sections coordinate enforcement actions with State actions and perform oversight functions on States which have assumed enforcement responsibility of the NPDES program.

Section 301 of the CWA prohibits a point source discharge of pollutants into waters of the United States without an NPDES permit. The NPDES permits require treatment of the pollutants to a degree that will comply with established water quality standards. The following are are few examples of discharges that are prohibited without an NPDES permit:

  • An industry discharging process water into a stream.
  • A muncipality's wastewater treatment facility discharging into a stream.
  • Piping a sanitary drain directly into a lake.
  • Dumping a drum of hazardous material into a wetland.
  • Pouring used motor oil down a storm drain.
  • A discharge from an animal feedlot's lagoon into a stream.
  • Power (Pressure) Washer that cleans such things as equipment, a restaurant's solid waste storage areas, or a parking lot and discharges the process water into a storm drain*
  • Carpet Cleaner that wet vacs carpet and discharges cleaning water into storm drain*
  • Car Wash that allows wash water to flow into a storm drain*

*Discharges to a permitted city sanitary drain is regulated by the city.

The Water Enforcement Branch monitors compliance in the States of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas. The States of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas have assumed the NPDES program and have the responsibility of directly permitting and enforcing the NPDES program. The States that have assumed the NPDES program may issue NPDES permits and have primary enforcement responsibility for facilities in their respective States, with certain exceptions such as Indian Country lands [18 U.S.C. 1511(a),(b),(c)]. Additionally, EPA retains the NPDES program in the State of Oklahoma for Agriculture (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) and "Oil & Gas and Pipeline facilities" (SIC code 1300's with the exception of both 1321 and 1389 where the discharges are not associated with an exploration or production site). EPA is responsible for oversite of the State run NPDES programs. EPA directly implements the NPDES program in New Mexico.

The NPDES permits are issued as individual permits or general permits. Individual permits are written for a specific facility location. General permits are written for a category or type of industrial discharger.

There have been several types of general permits issued in EPA Region 6 including:

Most NPDES permits have 24-Hour Non-Compliance reporting under certain circumstances as set forth in the permit language. Click here for 24-Hour Non-Compliance reporting.

The U.S. Congress made provisions in the Clean Water Act for Citizen Suits whereby citizens, citizen groups and local or State governments may enforce civil provisions under the Act through the Federal court system.

Penalties: The Director will adjust the civil and administrative penalties in accordance with the Civil Monetary Penalty Inflation Adjustment Rule (61 Fed. Reg. No. 252, pg 69359-69366 and 62 Fed. Reg. No. 52, pg 13514-13517) as mandated by the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 for inflation on a periodic basis. This rule allows EPA's penalties to keep pace with inflation. The Agency is required to review its penalties at least once every four years thereafter and adjust them as necessary for inflation according to a specified formula. Violations of a permit condition implementing sections 301, 301, 306, 307, 308, 318, or 405 of the Act are not to exceed $32,500 per day for each violation. Class I Penalties shall not exceed $11,000 per violation nor shall the maximum amount be more than $32,500. Class II Penalties shall not exceed $11,000 per violation nor shall the maximum amount exceed $157,500.  Section 309 [33 USC Section 1319] of the Clean Water Act sets forth the penalty authorities including civil and criminal penalties.

On March 15, 2004, the CWA civil administrative penalties were increased to $32,500 for Class I penalties and $157,500 for Class II penalties. The maximum administrative penalty per violation remains at $11,000 per day.

Public Notice

Public Notice: Some NPDES Class I and II Orders assessing penalties for violations are now being public noticed on the web at: www.epa.gov/region6/6en/w/public-notice.htm.


The following is the Water Enforcement Branch mailing address, contact names and phone numbers.

EPA Region 6
Compliance Assurance and Enforcement Division
Water Enforcement Branch (6EN-W)
1445 Ross Avenue
Dallas, Texas 75202-2733

Main Branch Phone: (214)665-6468
24 Hour Hotline: (214)665-6595
Fax: (214)665-2168

The Water Enforcement Associate Director is Jerry Saunders and his phone number is (214)665-6471
The Branch Secretary is Mary Anne Mitchelland her phone number is (214)665-6481

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