The United States currently does not have any overarching federal law regarding water quality that mandates certain specifications that every state must abide by. In fact, policies for water quality have become a state to state decision with a little guidance from the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This research analyzes how the water quality policies in New York and California differ. These differences stem from historical settlement patterns, regional weather and water availability, and health concerns related to pollutants introduced by various industrial practices. For example, due to regional issues and contaminants in Hoosick Falls, New York has developed laws for PFOAs that are stricter than those recommended by the EPA. Therefore, there is no overarching law regarding the PFOAs in the water even though every state considers it a contaminant. On the west coast, California is less concerned with contaminants like lead and PFOAs than they are with contaminants like selenium in the San Francisco Bay. Not only does selenium kill marine life, but it can also become toxic to humans because as it accumulates in fish that people eat, the levels of selenium can be dangerous for ingestion.
Since the majority of the water quality policies that states like California and New York abide by are mandated by the state, it brings up the issue of governmental hierarchy and who is in charge of who. The main players in the law-making process include the EPA and state organizations. The only role that the federal government plays is that the President can carry out Executive Orders to make budget cuts to the EPA or can reverse previous initiatives. There has been an ongoing debate since 2014, in which the EPA proposed a policy that would give the federal government power and control over all the water in the US. This debate is a result of a proposal to re-define the Waters of the United States, so that it satisfies economic benefits of navigable waters rather than focusing on keeping it safe for people and animals. Therefore, throughout my research I am discovering how difficult it is to create a policy for water quality that satisfies the needs of every individual, community and industry.