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E-M:/ FW: Inside EPA: EPA Mulls Narrow Revisions to Clean Water Act TMDL Regulations

Title: Inside EPA: EPA Mulls Narrow Revisions to Clean Water Act TMDL Regulations

Hello Michigan:    This post refers to the message below mine about EPA’s look at the Clean Water Act.  “Streamlining” the 303(d) listing and subsequent TMDL process could seriously affect the quality of Michigan waterways.  In just one example, 2 new streams were added to the 2004 303(d) list that were not listed in the 2002.  If EPA were to lengthen the time between 303(d) reports, it’s likely that newly-designated impaired streams could be delayed before coming under public scrutiny and input, and cleanup planning.  –Rita Jack, Michigan Sierra Club



The following is from Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan (ECCSCM): 

DEQ just released the final report on their Biosurveys of 15 sites in tributaries near two CAFOs (Vreba-Hoff 1 and 2) and other streams in the Bean/Tiffin watershed.  The major finding is significant impairment of Durfee Creek and Medina Drain, both in Medina Twp, Lenawee Co, near Vreba-Hoff 1, which was the first CAFO constructed, in 1997, and so has the longest history of liquid manure application draining to those streams.  

Medina Drain was just added to Michigan's 303(d) list of impaired waters.  

The DEQ biosurvey report concludes "the headwater portions of Durfee Creek and the Medina Drain are significantly impaired, and that the nature of these impairments is consistent with excessive nutrient inputs, such as animal waste entering these streams on a common basis."  The report also notes that "a local volunteer monitoring group in the Bean/Tiffin watershed has been monitoring common water quality parameters on area tributaries including Durfee Creek and the Medina Drain (see www.www.nocafos.org  ) ...the data, as posted on their Web site, is consistent with the findings of this study effort."

The DEQ biologists also took sediment samples in the Medina Drain and found "relatively high concentrations of Syrphidae (syrphus sp[Diptera]), an insect that is only found in the presence of significant and persistent concentrations of animal waste."  






-----Original Message-----
Sent: Thursday, August 26, 2004 8:44 AM
Subject: Inside EPA: EPA Mulls Narrow Revisions to Clean Water Act TMDL Regulations


Date: August 27, 2004 -
EPA water officials are considering whether to draft a streamlined version of long-stalled, contentious Clean Water Act rules -- which have been under consideration since the Clinton administration -- under which states set aggregate pollution limits for waterbodies, according to state and EPA sources.

State sources say Diane Regas, who heads the Office of Wetlands, Oceans & Watersheds, floated the possibility of crafting a streamlined rule earlier this month at the annual conference of the Association of State & Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators (ASIWPCA) in Chicago. The group represents state water regulators.

But it is not clear whether Office of Water officials are planning to vigorously pursue any plans to revise regulations governing the process for establishing the pollution caps known as total maximum daily loads (TMDLs), which have long been stalled at the agency.

One option under consideration would be a narrow rule that lengthens from two to four years the frequency with which states must submit to EPA lists of waters that are not meeting standards and should be targeted for TMDL development, the sources say. However, it is not clear what other provisions, if any, would be contained in a narrowed TMDL rule.

States have long complained that crafting the inventories of state water quality every two years, called 303(d) lists, is a burdensome process that saps resources from other water quality programs. While EPA is mulling ways to lessen the burden through guidance, a rulemaking would be needed to formally lengthen the listing cycle.

One state source says Regas’ remarks were welcome news because efforts to ease state listing burdens without regulatory changes are not working well. EPA and states have sought to ease state burdens by floating the idea of guidance that allows comprehensive 303(d) lists every four years while states could provide shorter updates every two years.

But the source says states have discovered that their regulations generally prevent a streamlined process, in part because the lists are subject to notice and comment provisions, and as a result, states cannot significantly ease the requirements without new federal rules. “We have come to the conclusion that option will not work,” the source says. “It [the listing process] is a rulemaking process you have to do carefully.”

The source believes that EPA may be interested in a longer listing cycle as well because the agency must review and approve state 303(d) lists and vetting them every two years “is as much a pain in the neck for them as it is for us. . . . They have limited resources and time.”

One EPA source confirms the agency may consider a streamlined rule. But the source says it is an option that has long been on the table during protracted consideration of how or whether to change the TMDL program’s regulations. “No one is working on it” currently, the source says. Regas could not be reached for comment on her remarks at the ASIWPCA conference.

EPA proposed new TMDL rules during the Clinton administration but Bush administration officials subsequently withdrew them. Since then, the White House has considered revising the program to encourage states to place greater focus on reducing pollution on a watershed basis, rather than focusing on individual waterbodies. A 2003 draft version of EPA’s so-called watershed rule would have included the longer listing cycle states are seeking.

The broad 2003 draft would also have allowed states new flexibility to alter pollution allocations assigned to various sources to meet a TMDL and encouraged pollutant trading. It would also have allowed EPA to revoke state-issued or administratively continued permits in one state that could impinge on water quality in another state, among many other provisions.

But the rule has become bogged down over disputes about how to assign pollution targets to agriculture and other provisions, and most agency observers say the broad rule is dormant, if not dead. The state source believes a more streamlined rule could gain traction because its modest scope could reduce controversy.

“The grandiose nature of the proposal is what its demise was,” the state source says. The source cautions, however, that states are uncertain what other provisions, if any, could surface in plans to propose a pared-down version of the rule. Regas “wants to put some things on the table and I do not know what they are,” the source says.

Source: Inside EPA via InsideEPA.com
Date: August 27, 2004
Issue: Vol. 25, No. 35
© Inside Washington Publishers