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Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972

Also known as: FWPCA; Clean Water Act

Richard M. Nixon

Signed into law by Richard M. Nixon
October 18, 1972

Introduced in 1971, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 (FWPCA) had a circuitous legislative history before becoming law on October 18, 1972. Despite receiving overwhelming support in the House and a unanimous vote in favor of passage in the Senate, President Nixon actually vetoed the FWPCA on October 17, 1972. Undeterred, both houses of Congress overrode President Nixon’s veto within twenty-four hours. In brief, the legislation requires companies (and local governments) to conform to a permit system and imposes strict requirements on the manner in which pollution may be discharged into water systems. The FWPCA makes it unlawful for employers to retaliate against individuals who bring to the attention of the government potential violations of the FWPCA.

Enforcement & Remedies

Under the FWPCA, employees who suffer illegal workplace retaliation must file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), part of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), within 30 days. OSHA will investigate complaints and can order remedies; employees who are unhappy with the result can appeal to an administrative judge at the DOL, with additional levels of review available within the DOL and in the federal courts. Remedies may include reinstatement, back pay, and compensatory damages.

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