Before the Clean Water Act, factories and sewage treatment plants routinely piped their untreated waste into our rivers. When wastewater is discharged from a pipe, it is called “point source” pollution, because it comes from a specific point. The Clean Water Act of 1972 required sources of point source pollution to have a permit to discharge wastewater, but the river is only as clean as the permits require the discharge to be.
In 2005, the French Broad River had 137 such permits, each allowing varying degrees of waste and chemicals to be discharged into our waterways. Starting in 2009, the Riverkeeper will thoroughly review these permits to determine whether they are being complied with and whether they need to be stronger to better protect water quality.