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The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) commended the Bush Administration for proposing new water quality rules on stormwater and "effluent limitation guidelines" (ELGs) and on the process used in developing the proposed rules. NAHB believes the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed rules are supported by science and based on "real world" data. The rules also will provide more effective water quality protection because they build on existing state and local regulations and will allow builders to choose protection measures tailored to address site-specific water quality concerns. The proposed rules are expected to be published in the Federal Register this week.
"These ELG and stormwater proposed rules will help builders, developers, communities and government agencies protect water quality more efficiently while keeping new housing affordable," said NAHB President Gary Garczynski, a builder/developer from Woodbridge, Va. "In addition to the outcome, we applaud the EPA and the Bush Administration for the process they used. The Administration's approach was inclusive, open to the public and fair. The recommendations they have made are based on a thorough understanding of how we currently develop land, the most effective ways to control pollution from stormwater runoff, soil erosion and sediment, and the effects of regulation on land development and housing costs. While we still have some concerns, overall this is a positive step. With this process, the Administration has ushered in a new era by basing government rule-making affecting residential construction on a better understanding of how land is developed and how water quality can be protected."
Effluent limitation guidelines are technology-based standards designed to limit the amount of pollutants that come off job sites and industrial properties. Intended for implementation as part of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program, the guidelines, which EPA began developing in 1999, would rely on available technologies known as Best Management Practices (BMPs) to keep soil on construction sites, off of streets and out of streams and rivers.
Many of these BMPs are already being used on construction sites across the country to comply with EPA's existing NPDES Phase I rules, which regulate stormwater from development projects affecting five acres or more. Under the second phase of EPA's stormwater rule, which is slated to go into effect in March 2003, developers must obtain permits if they disturb one or more acres of ground. The ELGs would have applied to new and reissued NPDES stormwater permits and would have covered a variety of activities including stormwater runoff from construction sites during home construction, commercial and industrial area construction, bridge and road construction, and clearing, grading and excavating activities.
Under the Administration's proposals, builders would continue to use Best Management Practices, but because conditions vary from site to site, builders would be given flexibility on which practices to use, since the amount of pollution generated by stormwater runoff in Portland, Ore., for example, may differ considerably from the amount generated in Portland, Maine, due to varying soil, topography, slopes and climate conditions.
"Making one BMP mandatory nationwide is not effective," Garcyznski added. "Giving builders the flexibility to choose from a number of EPA-approved BMPs tailored to protect water quality from runoff at that specific site is not only effective but also efficient."
However, a recommendation to increase inspection and certification requirements for stormwater BMPs will present challenges for NAHB members and could add costs to the development process. In light of this, NAHB will push for more education about existing practices. "Instead of adding new regulations and new costs to housing, we should provide the resources necessary so that more builders can learn the most effective BMP strategies, with or without regulation," Garczynski said.