Publication Title

University of Pennsylvania Law Review


mercury, Refuse Act, Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, water pollution

Document Type



The primary purpose of this Article is to encourage a forceful implementation of the Refuse Act as a second chance to achieve water quality. The presentation commences in Section I with a brief outline of the dimensions of industrial water pollution and the legal and scientific barriers to effective control. Against this background, Section II summarizes the central features of the Refuse Act, presents a narrative history of its recent renovation, and analyzes the major issues arising under the statute.

Section III discusses the traditional industrial and governmental view of water pollution and how a change in regulatory attitude invites revitalization of the Refuse Act. The discrete roles of the private citizen, the Department of Justice, the Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are discussed critically in Section IV with the aim of aborting regulatory blunders which might retard improvements in water quality that could be achieved through the wise use of the 1899 Act.

The Article concludes in Section V by presenting two scenarios of polar utilizations of the Refuse Act, which may unfold within the next few years-one optimistic, the other pessimistic, either quite possible.

[Reprinted in Mercury Pollution and Enforcement of the Refuse Act of 1899, Part 1: Hearing Before the H. Subcomm. on Conservation and Natural Resources of the H. Comm. on Government Operations, 92nd Cong. 567-629 (1971).]



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