We’re proud to host St. Johns Riverkeeper’s 40th Birthday Party for the Clean Water Act:

Our waterways started flowing differently in 1972. Oil spills, river fires, and toxic waste put a national spotlight on water pollution, allowing Congress to override President Nixon’s veto and establish the Clean Water Act (CWA) with overwhelming bipartisan support. With the ultimate goal of restoring all of our waters to “fishable, swimmable” by 1985, the CWA hasn’t quite met the mark. However, this landmark legislation has resulted in significant improvements for the St. Johns River and many of our nation’s waters, and that is definitely worth celebrating!

A 1966 Ocala newspaper editorial stated that “ninety percent of the raw human sewage dumped in all of Florida’s rivers goes into the St. Johns in Duval County. Tributaries feeding into it are open sewers.” In 1970, a U.S. Senator called the St. Johns “a cesspool” and Governor Claude Kirk said, “If you fall in, you will die of pollution before you drown.” In 1971, the Duval County Health Department reported that one could contract 27 different communicable diseases by swimming across the St. Johns near the Main Street Bridge. Before the Clean Water Act, only about a third of U.S. waters were safe for swimming or fishing and 30 percent of tap water samples exceeded federal limits for certain chemicals.

The passage of the CWA finally gave regulatory agencies the authority to hold polluters accountable, to regulate the discharge of pollution, and to establish water quality standards for our ailing waterways. After four decades under the CWA, an estimated 65 percent of U.S. waterways now pass the fishable/swimmable test.

While have made some progress, we still have a long way to go. For instance, more than half of our rivers and lakes in Florida have poor water quality. While only 20% of the river and stream miles in Florida have been assessed, 80% of those waterways do not meet CWA water quality standards.

So, on this 40th birthday for the Clean Water Act, let’s celebrate how far we have come in 40 years, and recommit ourselves to the goal of making ALL of our waterways “fishable, swimmable.”

Clean Water Act 40th Birthday Party
Wednesday, October 24th 6 – 9 pm
Sadler Point Marine Center
Learn more on our events page.