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Veto of Bill To Amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act

February 22, 1960

[Released February 23, 1960. Dated February 22, 1960]

To the House of Representatives:

I am returning herewith, without my approval, H.R. 3610, an enrolled bill "To amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to increase grants for construction of sewage treatment works, and for other purposes."

The bill would authorize an increase in Federal grants to municipalities for assistance in the construction of sewage treatment works from $50 million to $90 million annually, and from $500 million to $900 million in the aggregate.

Because water pollution is a uniquely local blight, primary responsibility for solving the problem lies not with the Federal Government but rather must be assumed and exercised, as it has been, by State and local governments. This being so, the defects of H.R. 3610 are apparent. By holding forth the promise of a large-scale program of long-term Federal support, it would tempt municipalities to delay essential water pollution abatement efforts while they waited for Federal funds.

The rivers and streams of our country are a priceless national asset. I, accordingly, favor wholeheartedly appropriate Federal cooperation with States and localities in cleaning up the Nation's waters and in keeping them clean. This Administration from the beginning has strongly supported a sound Federal water pollution control program. It has always insisted, however, that the principal responsibility for protecting the quality of our waters must be exercised where it naturally reposes--at the local level.

Polluted water is a threat to the health and well-being of all our citizens. Yet, pollution and its correction are so closely involved with local industrial processes and with public water supply and sewage treatment, that the problem can be successfully met only if State and local governments and industry assume the major responsibility for cleaning up the nation's rivers and streams.

The Federal Government can help, but it should stimulate State and local action rather than provide excuses for inaction--which an expanded program under H.R. 3610 would do.

The following are steps which I believe the Federal Government should take so that our rivers and streams may more rapidly be relieved of the pollution blight.

First, I am requesting the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare to arrange for a national conference on water pollution to be held next December. This conference will help local taxpayers and business concerns to realize the obligation they have to help prevent pollution. It is unconscionable for one town or city deliberately to dump untreated or inadequately treated sewage into a stream or river without regard to the impact of such action on the lives of down-stream neighbors. Local taxpayers should be willing to assume the burdens necessary to bring such practices to a halt. Businessmen and industrialists must face up. to the expenditures they must make if industrial pollutants are to be removed from the nation's waters. In short, the proposed conference will provide a forum in which all concerned can confront and better appreciate their mutual responsibility for solving this pressing problem.

Second, where the issue is of an interstate nature and the problem is beyond the powers of a single State, or where it is otherwise appropriate to assist State enforcement actions, the Federal Government should have authority to move more quickly and effectively in directing the application of control measures that will swiftly correct such intolerable pollution. In accordance with the 1961 Budget Message, recommendations will be submitted to the Congress for strengthening the enforcement provisions of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act.

Third, the Federal Government should continue to provide modest financial assistance for the administration of control programs by States and interstate water pollution control agencies. Because such programs rest upon a solid foundation of local cooperative action, they properly merit Federal encouragement and assistance. An extended life for this program is recommended in the 1961 Budget.

Fourth, the Federal Government, through research and technical assistance, can be of material help in contributing to our knowledge of water pollution--its causes, its extent, its impact and methods for its control. Increased Federal effort in this respect is also provided for in the 1961 Budget.

These measures will provide Federal authority that accords with the proper Federal, State, and local roles in water pollution abatement. urge their early consideration by the Congress.


Note: The veto message was released in Washington.

APP Note: In the Public Papers of the Presidents series, this document is dated February 23, 1960, the date it was released. The American Presidency Project dates this document as February 22, 1960, the date the bill was vetoed.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Veto of Bill To Amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/234979

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