Senate EPW Committee Hearing on Groundwater Discharges under the Clean Water Act


On April 18, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee conducted a hearing entitled, “The Appropriate Role of States and the Federal Government in Protecting Groundwater.” This hearing follows EPA’s request for public comment on Clean Water Act (CWA) Coverage of “Discharges of Pollutants” via a Direct Hydrologic Connection to Surface Water, along with multiple court cases throughout the US on this topic. The hearing on Wednesday included testimony from Martha Clark Mettler, Assistant Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s Office of Water and President of the Association of Clean Water Administrators, along with representatives from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the Southern Environmental Law Center, and a hydrologist from Aquilogic, an environmental and water resources consulting firm. During the hearing, witnesses and members of the Committee shared differing opinions. Some of the key issues debated included: whether including groundwater discharges is an expansion of the CWA; whether states already have adequate protections in place for groundwater quality; and whether including provisions for groundwater discharges under the CWA would create an unrealistic burden on states and regulated communities for evaluating connections to “Waters of the US” and creating a vast number of new NPDES permits. To view the hearing and read the witness testimonies, visit the Senate EPW website.