Surface water is defined as any body of water above ground, including oceans, streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands, reservoirs, and creeks. These waters that are used by municipalities, agriculture, and industry, are increasingly exposed to pollutants from manufacturing or the environment.

One of the biggest risks to humans from surface water pollution are pathogens that cause types of waterborne diseases. These come from human waste. Other risks include toxic discharges by industrial sources such as organic chemicals and heavy metals. Surface water contamination can also lead to bioaccumulation of hazardous pollutants in fish and other organisms.

Surface Water Questions?

Pace Surface Water Wetlands imageSurface water is regulated under several programs at both the state and federal level. The Federal Clean Water Act (CWA) establishes standards for surface water and makes it unlawful to discharge pollutants into the Waters of the United States, unless permitted. Surface water, the receiving water for discharged wastewater, is monitored to make sure that it does not contain contaminants higher than CWA standards. Federal law requires the review of water quality standards every three years. State laws may require more frequent reviews.

The CWA also regulates how dredged or fill material are placed into lakes, wetlands, streams, rivers and estuaries. This is jointly implemented by EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, sometimes referred to as Superfund) is designed to remedy threats from unexpected releases and historical mistakes in hazardous waste management. CERCLA has responsibility for the cleanup of abandoned hazardous-waste sites as well as accidents, spills, and other emergency releases into the environment, inclusive of surface water.

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) is a proactive program that regulates the disposal of municipal and hazardous waste as well as the protection of ground-water resources. RCRA’s corrective action program is designed to investigate and guide the cleanup of any contaminated media, including surface water, that results from spills or releases into the environment from any RCRA-regulated facility.