Pollution and the Environment
An Environmental Timeline

To know where we are we must first  know where we've been.  The strides we have taken over the past 35 years to protect and maintain our water supply have been monumental.  Post World-War II posterity saw a boom in all types of manufacturing, especially in the chemical industry.  During this period little or no regard was taken for the environment, particularly for our water resources.

It was at this time we began to realize that the quality of the water that we drink is dependent on many interrelationships, and as science and technology advanced, political and economic systems changed influencing the envrionment and our drinking water.

The following is a list of events that proceeded the passage of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

1962            Rachael Carson writes Silent Spring.

A biologist for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Rachael Carson spent four years researching and documenting the broad destruction of wildlife and health hazards associated with pesticides such as DDT.  She is credited as the mother of modern environmentalism by emphasizing "that man's desire to control nature was conceived in arrogance."  "Man can not exist apart from nature, for he, himself is a part of it."
Still required reading at most major universities for students
entering environmental fields of study.

1965      Aerial crop dusting and spraying in the US comes under strict federal controls in response to Silent Spring.   
1968     A study of the Cuyahoga River between Akron and Cleveland, Ohio finds no fish life.

1969    The Santa Barbara blowout.
A Union Oil Company well located in the Santa Barbara channel leaks 500 barrels of crude oil per day.  It is televised nightly creating public anger and disgust.                           

1969    The Cuyahoga River burns.
The Cuyahoga River burns on June 22 when sparks from a railroad car carrying molten steel over a bridge set it afire.  Although the fire only lasts 20 minutes, public sentiment makes it a poster child for growing environmental awareness.

1969    The National Environmental Policy Act is passed requiring agencies to publish environmental impact statements prior to proposed projects or activities.

1970    The first Earth Day is celebrated on April 22. The largest organized demonstration in American history,  more than 20 million people participated in discussions, teach-ins, and celebrations.  Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, a long time battler for clean water, understood that the methods developed for anti-war protests could succeed in the era of student and citizen politics.

With the aid of a 25 year old Harvard law
student, Dennis Hayes,Earth Day was born,
and protecting the environment became part of
mainstream American thought.

 As Margaret Meade said, "Never doubt that a small group of citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."                                                

1970            Congress establishes the Environmental Protection, (EPA), on December 2.

1972            DDT is banned in the United States, 10 years after the publication of Silent Spring.

1972            Congress passes the Clean Water Act, (CWA), to "restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters."  The CWA created the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, (NPDES), permit program, required states to establish maiximum daily loads for pollutants, and created a national pretreatment program, aimed at eliminating source pollution.

1974            The EPA and The Environmental Defense Fund release reports that indicated drinking water from the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers contained a variety of cancer-causing substances, organic carcinogens, even after it had been treated for use.

1974            Congress passes the Safe Drinking Water Act, (SDWA), to "ensure that public drinking water sources supplied high quality water to the nation's citizens."  The Act required the EPA to set Maximum Contaminant Levels, (MCL's), for pollutants in public drinking water supplies. 

Last updated: 5/17/2016 9:23:48 AM