According to a National Wildlife Federation report, the Clean Water Act was aimed at cleaning up urban waterways that were disproportionately impacting low-income communities and communities of color. Even after 50 years, these same demographics are overburdened by water pollution. Photo by Ramona du Houx

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October 28 2022   

As the Clean Water Act turns 50 this month, parts of it are the subject of a U-S Supreme Court case. Sackett versus E-P-A might let factories, hog farms and wastewater plants pollute waterways in states that lack strong water-quality protections.

A decision in favor of the plaintiffs in the case has the potential to remove the Clean Water Act’s protections for about half the nation’s streams and wetlands. Jim Murphy Jim Murphy, director of legal advocacy at the National Wildlife Federation, said the case could have sweeping repercussions across the U-S.

“Could potentially, depending on how the court rules, remove important federal protections from pollution and destruction for up to half of the nation’s wetlands and maybe 60% to 70% of the nation’s streams,” Murphy said,” including many streams that could provide the source waters for people’s drinking supplies. “

A recent report from the National Wildlife Federation said if the plaintiffs are successful in the case, it would be “disproportionately felt by low-income communities and communities of color that already have inadequate water and wastewater infrastructure and face greater flood risk,” Murphy said.

Connecticut has been making investments toward improving water quality.

In recent months, the state has allocated state funds and received federal funding for a series of water infrastructure-related projects.

Nationally, Murphy found polls that show 75% of adults favor protections for more waterways, and want the Environmental Protection Agency to take the lead in protecting natural waterways.

“Again, these natural systems provide functions that are very, very hard to replace, and very expensive to replace through engineering and other means,” Murphy said.

This is the second time the Sackett family has been before the Supreme Court in their 14-year legal battle. Their first time was in 2012, when they were granted the right to sue the E-P-A. A decision is expected in 2023.


Clean Water Act information EPA 10/18/1972
Report Nat’l Wildlife Federation 10/17/2022
Petition U.S. Supreme Court 09/22/2021
Biden proclamation The White House 10/17/2022
Clean Water Investment State of CT 9/17/2022