History of the Clean Water Act (CWA)
The Cuyahoga River was one of the most polluted rivers in the United States. The reach from Akron to Cleveland was devoid of fish throughout the 1950s and 60s. There were at least 13 fires on the Cuyahoga River, the first occurring in 1868. The largest river fire, in 1952, caused more than $1 million in damage to boats and a riverfront office building. Fires erupted on the river several more times before June 22, 1969; on that date a river fire captured the attention of Time magazine, which described the Cuyahoga as the river that "oozes rather than flows" and in which a person "does not drown but decays." The 1969 Cuyahoga River fire mobilized public concern across the nation and helped spur an avalanche of water pollution control activities resulting in the Clean Water Act, Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, and the creation of the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA).
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