A decade ago, firefighters in a warehouse on the Rhine in Switzerland washed chemicals, solvents, and mercury into the river, destroying all life in the river for miles, killing millions of fish, and endangering the water supplies of cities in Germany and the Netherlands. This tragedy galvanized the river valley states into action. They vowed to clean up the river, not just from that incident but from the effects of having used the river as a sewer for two centuries. But how clean is clean? The goal for this calculated plan, which will take decades to achieve, is symbolized by the salmon. When salmon spawn again in the Rhine, then it will have been restored. Will these nations succeed? If the twenty five year history of our Clean Water Act offers a precedent, “restoring and maintaining” the waters of the United States for fish and swimming, the prognosis may be good.
Nicholas A. Robinson, The "Ascent of Man': Legal Systems and the Discovery of an Environmental Ethic, 15 Pace Envtl. L. Rev. 497 (1998), http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/lawfaculty/376/.