Traditionally handled at state and local levels, pollution of waters is, in effect, now largely directed by the Federal government. However, the Federal administrators are seeking the joint involvement of State governments in controlling pollution through the device of State laws and river compacts — the latter; of course, applying to river basins involving several States or where States have a mutual boundary in a river. The chronology of the Federal legislation starts with the Water Pollution Control Act of 1948. It was limited in scope when it was fully implemented, and the government’s real role was still confined by the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, the Public Health Service Act of 1912, and the Oil Pollution Control Act of 1924. The amendments to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1956 established a basic policy that water pollution problems are best solved at the local level. Grants were made to States and interstate agencies for water pollution control activities and grants for waste treatment plant construction. Purposes were limited and a complicated system of Federal controls resulted. The Act was further amended in 1961 to extend Federal pollution abatement authority to all interstate and navigable waters in construction grants and encouraged the research activity.
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