EPA to restore wetlands, help utility compliance
The US EPA's focus over the next two years will be on the development of Watershed Restoration Action Strategies using Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) and of State Capacity Development Programmes to ensure that water systems have the capacity to comply with existing drinking water standards.
Issuing an overview of EPA’s National Water Programme, Assistant Administrator, Charles Fox outlined themes laid out in the Clean Water Action Plan (CWAP) and the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) amendments as well as the specific actions which will make up the US national water programme for the period between 1999 and 2000.
In 1996, amendments were made to the SDWA authorizing measures to be taken by EPA, state and water utilities until the end of 2005. In February 1998, President Clinton announced the CWAP, setting out goals for the Clean Water Programme.
In an EPA statement, Fox listed the areas to which he will be paying special attention over the coming year. For the Clean Water Programme, those areas include:
- Watershed Restoration Action Strategies. As States complete workplans for clean water grant funds, they will use Unified Watershed Assessments to identify impaired watersheds where they will develop Watershed Restoration Action Strategies between 1999 and 2000.
- Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs). TDMLs are the State-designated daily load of pollutants allowed in a water body while maintaining water quality for its “designated use.” TMDLs are set by the State to cover all sources of pollutants including urban and agricultural runoff. The Watershed Restoration Action Strategies will be co-ordinated with the development of TMDLs for impaired waters. The Clean Water State Revolving Fund will support implementation of the Action Strategies.
- Animal feeding operations (AFO) strategy. This spring, the EPA and USDA released a strategy aimed at reducing water pollution from animal feeding operations. The EPA will provide states with guidance and model Clean Water Act permits for those facilities causing water pollution problems
- Permit backlog – the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program is the backbone of the EPA’s efforts to protect water quality. Fox promised to deal with the “unacceptably high” permit reissuance backlog.
- Water Quality Standards Program Modernization – Fox described the modernization of water quality standards as critical to the CWAP.
Fox said the EPA will focus on those activities drawn up under the 1996 SDWA amendments that have a deadline of Financial Year 2000 and early FY 2001. Those include:
- State Capacity Development Programs – States will develop programs intended to ensure that water systems have the capacity to comply with existing drinking water rules. Financial assistance for state capacity development activity is available through the Drinking Water State Revolving Funds.
- Source Water Assessments – these will provide data to States, water systems, and the public. The EPA will help States conduct these assessments, and to implement programs to protect their source water (including eliminating Class V high-risk shallow underground injection wells).
- Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule. Fox said more data is needed to determine what new contaminants should be regulated. In the late summer, the EPA will release new requirements on unregulated contaminant monitoring that will provide this data.
- Class V Underground Injection Control Rule – the EPA will publish a rule on Class V wells in the summer.
- Public Notification Rule – the EPA will publish revisions to the Public Notification Rule. This rule will require water systems to more quickly notify their customers if there is a serious threat to their drinking water supply.
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