AMSA speaks out against 'Permit to Pollute' report

Aug. 16, 2002
AMSA has sent an open letter to the publishers of a controversial pollution report, charging them with making 'false and misleading' conclusions and omitting important facts.

August 16, 2002 -- The Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies (AMSA) has sent an open letter to the publishers of a controversial pollution report, charging them with making "false and misleading" conclusions and omitting important facts.

The Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) recently released a report entitled "Permit to Pollute: How the Government's Lax Enforcement of the Clean Water Act is Poisoning Our Waters."

In the letter addressed to Richard Caplan of PIRG, AMSA said that the publicly owned treatment works (POTW) community was "extremely troubled" by the "misleading nature and errors of omission" contained in PIRG's report.

"First and foremost, the mischaracterization of POTWs as "polluters" throughout the Report is both offensive and simply untrue," Executive Director Ken Kirk wrote. "POTWs treat and clean the nation's wastewater, serving as the primary line of defense against water pollution."

Kirk said that the summary statistics fail to recognize that nearly half of the PIRG Report's significant violations for persistent offenders (violations in all five quarters examined by the report) are for administrative or paperwork matters that have no association with water quality.

"The failure to point this fact out only serves to mislead the public - an outcome that is certainly antithetical to the public interest," Kirk said.

Officials from a number of states have come forward documenting that some of the violations alleged in the report simply did not occur or do not rise to the level of significant non-compliance, the letter stated.

For example, the Colorado Department of Health has said that most violations listed in your report involved late filings or single accidental releases.

Kirk said, " is simply wrong to disparage the hard work of our nation's public servants, who are working every day on behalf of the public interest, for legislative gain."

"With the upcoming 30th anniversary of the Clean Water Act fast approaching, and a general consensus that the nation's lakes, rivers and streams are much cleaner and safer than they were 30 years ago, it is my hope that PIRG will join with AMSA in celebrating - as opposed to unfairly and erroneously critiquing - the public servants who have made these environmental and public health improvements a reality - namely, the nation's wastewater treatment community," Kirk concluded.

About AMSA
The Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies (AMSA) represents over 270 publicly owned treatment works (POTWs), who every day treat over 18 billion gallons of wastewater and provide sewer service to more than 180 million Americans. For more information, visit

For more information from PIRG, visit

Source: AMSA.

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