For Immediate Release
October 17, 2012

KDHE Office of Communications, 785-296-0461

KDHE Recognizes 40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act

TOPEKA- Tomorrow, Oct.18, marks the 40th anniversary of the federal Clean Water Act. In 1974, the Kansas Board of Health (renamed the Kansas Department of Health and Environment later that year) was authorized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to implement the Clean Water Act in Kansas. 

A generation ago, the American people faced health and environmental threats in their waters that are almost unimaginable by our standards today.

“While the situation may not have been so dire in Kansas, there were still significant problems,” said Mike Tate, Director of KDHE’s Bureau of Water.  “Forty years ago it was not unusual to see streams black from wastewater discharges, colored by industrial wastes or with dead fish from feedlot and industry runoff.  The rarity of these harmful and unsightly problems today is a tribute to significant progress made in reducing pollutants in the lakes and streams of Kansas.”

Perhaps the single most significant achievement is in the improvement of municipal wastewater treatment. Toxic releases from industry have all but been eliminated through enhanced treatment, alternative waste disposal and pretreatment programs. Today Kansas has more than 700 municipal wastewater treatment plants that reduce bacteria and toxics to a fraction of the amount released prior to 1972. Kansas has also been recognized nationally for success in reducing nonpoint sources of pollutants - primarily runoff from rural areas.  In particular, significant reductions in bacteria from livestock operations have been achieved in several watersheds. 

“These nonpoint source efforts enjoy success by closely partnering with volunteer citizen groups who live within the boundaries of watersheds they seek to protect.  Volunteers help plan and direct the implementation of corrective measures most beneficial to the watersheds.  Working together with those most affected produces lasting and sustainable results,” KDHE Division of Environment Director John Mitchell added.  

“While we can be proud of Kansas’ achievements, significant work remains to be done.  Reducing the runoff and discharge of nutrients that spur blue green algae blooms, improving the quality of urban and rural runoff, and repairing and replacing our aging sewer systems are some of the challenges that must be addressed,” said Robert Moser, M.D., Secretary of KDHE and State Health Officer. “If we as Kansans can collectively achieve the magnitude of accomplishments in the next 40 years that have been achieved under the first 40 years of the Clean Water Act, Kansas waters and its citizens will be well served for generations to come.”