Today's final rule revises and clarifies the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) current regulatory requirements for establishing Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) under the Clean Water Act (CWA) so that TMDLs can more effectively contribute to improving the nation's water quality.
Clean water has been a national goal for many decades. While significant progress has been made, particularly in stemming pollution from factories and city sewage systems, major challenges remain. These challenges call for a focused effort to identify polluted waters and enlist all those who enjoy, use, or depend on them in the restoration effort.
Today's action will establish an effective and flexible framework to move the country toward the goal of clean water for all Americans. It establishes a process for making decisions in a common sense, cost effective way on how best to restore polluted waterbodies. It is based on identifying and implementing necessary reductions in both point and nonpoint sources of pollutants as expeditiously as practicable.
States, Territories and authorized Tribes will develop more comprehensive lists of all water bodies that do not attain and maintain water quality standards. States, Territories and authorized Tribes will schedule, based on priority factors, the establishment of all necessary TMDLs over 10 years, with an allowance for another five years where necessary.
The rule also specifies elements of approvable TMDLs, including implementation plans that contain lists of actions and expeditious schedules to reduce pollutant loadings. States, Territories and authorized Tribes will provide the public with opportunities to comment on methodologies, lists, prioritized schedules and TMDLs prior to submission to EPA.
The rule lays out specific timeframes under which EPA will assure that lists of waters and TMDLs are completed as scheduled, and necessary National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits are issued to implement TMDLs.
The final rule explains EPA's discretionary authority to object to, and reissue if necessary, State-issued NPDES permits that have been administratively continued after expiration where there is a need for a change in the conditions of the permit to be consistent with water quality standards and established and approved TMDLs
EPA believes that these regulations are necessary because the TMDL program which Congress mandated in 1972 has brought about insufficient improvement in water quality. EPA had been concerned about this lack of progress for some time when, in 1996, it established a Federal Advisory Committee. The Committee was asked to advise EPA on possible improvements to the program. After careful deliberations, the Committee recommended that EPA amend several aspects of the regulations.
EPA believes that these regulations will benefit human health and the environment by establishing clear goals for identification of impaired waterbodies and establishment of TMDLs. The regulations will also ensure that States, Territories and authorized Tribes give a higher priority to restoring waterbodies which have a greater potential to affect human health or threatened or endangered species thereby focusing the benefits of these regulations on the most pressing problems.
This regulation is not effective until 30 days after the date that Congress allows EPA to implement this regulation.
SOURCE: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency