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The regulatory guidelines of the three environmental acts

Please note that the following summaries do not detail each program within each law, and do not discuss the original requirements of the law versus later amendments.

Clean Air Act Primary objective - human health Secondary objective - non health such as aesthetics, agriculture, etc. The CAA divides the country into air quality regions. The CAA also sets goals for the concentration of various pollutants in the ambient surrounding air. These goals are set so that the health risk from the various pollutants is essentially zero. These standards specify the technology and the emission limits that are allowed for pollutants discharged to the air.

The Basics of the Regulatory Process

The original focus of the CAA was on "point sources" of pollution, however the CAA does include technology requirements for mobile sources such as automobiles. The 1990 amendments added air toxics to the regulation. Air toxics are controlled by technology-based standards that are set for various industrial categories.

  1. The categories are physical, chemical, microbiological, and radiological.
  2. Another section details requirements for the design of solid waste landfill facilities. The CAA also sets goals for the concentration of various pollutants in the ambient surrounding air.
  3. Additional sections exist for special issues such as underground storage tanks.

There are no ambient air goals for air toxics. Primary objective - eliminate discharge of all pollutants Secondary objective - restore and maintain the quality of the nation's waters so they are fishable and swimmable waters The current trend is towards regions setting watershed specific goals for principal pollutants oxygen demand, nutrients, pathogens, suspended solids, salts, toxic metals, toxic organics, heat, and pH. The CWA established technology-based effluent standards for specific industry categories.

These standards specify the technology and effluent limits that should be used to treat wastewater prior to disposal in a water body. Originally this regulation provided federal funding for the construction of secondary wastewater treatment plants for municipal wastewater. The original focus was on industrial point sources of pollution, however the 1987 amendments added requirements for the control of non point source pollution such as agricultural and urban runoff.

Laws & Regulations

Safe Drinking Water Act: Primary objective - ensure potable water safe for human health Secondary objective - ensure palatable water aesthetics such as taste, color, odor Tertiary objective - protect the quality of underground sources of water The SDWA has four categories of standards that water suppliers must meet. The categories are physical, chemical, microbiological, and radiological. The physical standards include guidelines for total solids, suspended solids, dissolved solids, turbidity, color, tastes, odors, and temperature.

These are nonenforceable standards aimed at improving palatability of the water supply. The chemical standards set maximum contaminant levels MCLs for various chemical contaminants. These MCLS must be met and are enforceable. One section details how a waste can be characterized as a solid waste and as a hazardous waste. Another section details a tracking framework for hazardous waste that includes a paper trail from the time the waste is generated to when it is finally disposed.

Another section details requirements for facilities that treat, store, or dispose of hazardous waste.

Laws & Regulations

These requirements must be met before a facility is granted a permit to operate. Another section details requirements for the design of solid waste landfill facilities. Another section specifies how the various hazardous wastes must be treated before disposal. Additional sections exist for special issues such as underground storage tanks. The fund is based on taxes assessed to the chemical and petroleum industry. And, the law establishes a liability framework that provides for strict, joint, and several liability for the cleanup of abandoned hazardous waste sites.

The 1990 Pollution Prevention Act describes a waste management hierarchy that prefers waste management techniques in the following order from most preferred to least preferred: