An analysis of federal enforcement records shows that large industrial polluters in Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania are routinely breaking the law -- and getting away with it. Big water polluters are almost never fined for their violations, and when they are fined, the penalties are often too low to act as a deterrent to future pollution. For many big polluters, breaking clean water laws has become standard business practice.
Much of the blame for the sad state of clean water enforcement should fall on the shoulders of state governments and their environmental enforcers, who increasingly see themselves as "partners" of the businesses they are supposed to be policing. One representative of the Ohio EPA went so far as to declare: "We are not an enforcement agency." Sadly, clean water enforcement records obtained from the U.S. EPA back up that official's claim.