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The Department of Environmental Control (DEC) was established by legislative action with passage of the Nebraska Environmental Protection Act in 1971. This legislation gave broad powers to the department directing the development of comprehensive programs for the prevention, control, and abatement of new or existing pollution of the air, waters, and land of the state. This authority is further spelled out by statute with regard to development of control programs, water quality standards, and wastewater treatment criteria.
The water pollution abatement programs administered by DEC are based primarily on two basic sets of regulations, Water Quality Standards and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Rules and Regulations. The primary purpose of the Water Quality Standards is to protect the public health and welfare. These standards are applicable to all waters of the state, flowing or impounded. The general criteria in the standards cover aesthetic conditions; suspended, colloidal, or settleable solids; oil and grease; and chlorides. The general criteria are applied statewide regardless of the water body.