Fourth Circuit Issues New Ruling on Point Sources Under the CWA

New on illustration of article

Anthony B. Cavender discusses the Clean Water Act.

October 2, 2018
Anthony B. Cavender - Gravel2Gavel

The Clean Water Act (CWA) authorizes citizen suits to enforce the provisions of the law which requires a permit to discharge a pollutant from a point source into navigable waters. Earlier this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Upstate Forever v. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, held that discharges into groundwater, not surface water, could also trigger the regulatory authority of the CWA if there was a hydrological connection between the groundwater and the navigable, surface, waters. In its a closely-watched case, Sierra Club v. Virginia Electric & Power Company (“VEPCO”), which also involved discharges into groundwater, the Fourth Circuit was bound by this this new and controversial precedent (a Supreme Court review is very likely), but the plaintiffs in the VEPCO case could not establish that the landfill and the settling ponds used by VEPCO were “point sources”—another important element that must be established.

Mr. Cavender may be contacted at


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