The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has adopted a
Water Quality Trading Policy that Administrator Christie Whitman said will reduce
industrial, municipal and agricultural discharges into the nation's waterways.
The new approach, she said "will result in cleaner
water at less cost and in less time" while imposing accountability.
Trading has been the subject of pilot programs and some
state initiatives for several years, but EPA is now moving to establish it as a
major national water policy.
Under a trading approach, an operation that exceeded
requirements on pollution elimination would create credits that it could sell
to another entity that had not met its goals.
As Whitman described her agency's plan, "It allows one
source to meet its regulatory obligations by using pollutant reductions created
by another source that has lower pollution control costs. The standards remain
the same, but efficiency is increased and costs are decreased."
She noted that before a water quality trade could take
place, a pollution-reduction "credit" first must be created.
The policy states that sources should reduce pollution loads
beyond the level required by the most stringent water quality-based
requirements in order to create a pollution reduction "credit" that
can be traded. Additional information on the policy is available at style="mso-spacerun: yes"> www.epa.gov/owow/watershed/
The Water Environment Federation (WEF) endorsed EPA's
Trading Policy, terming it "a positive step towards recognizing trading as
a tool to achieve water quality improvements."
WEF said the policy was designed to "encourage states,
interstate agencies and tribes to develop and implement voluntary water quality
trading programs that facilitate implementation of TMDLs, reduce the costs of
compliance with Clean Water Act regulations, establish incentives for voluntary
reductions and promote watershed-based initiatives." WEF cited "the
Policy's emphasis on watersheds and cooperation between point and nonpoint
EPA has issued instructions to help drinking water utilities
submit security self-assessments to the agency in a secure manner.
The Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and
Response Act of 2002 requires community drinking-water systems that serve more
than 3,300 people to submit vulnerability assessments and certify completion of
emergency response plans to EPA.
The deadlines for submission of the assessments is March 31,
2003 for drinking water systems serving 100,000 or more people; Dec. 31, 2003
for systems serving 50,000-99,999 people; and June 30, 2004 for systems serving
Once a drinking water system certifies completion of its
vulnerability assessment to EPA, it has six months to certify completion of its
emergency response plan.
Further information is available at
www.epa.gov/safewater/security. A section labeled "New" under
"Vulnerability Assessment Tools" contains instructions for compliance
with submission requirements. EPA said, "These instructions to utilities
and our secure information handling procedures demonstrate EPA's resolve to
protect this vital information prepared by water utilities."
Over the next 12 months EPA plans to develop guidance on
different aspects of the watershed-based permitting approach it is adopting as
a major initiative. The guidance will cover general implementation issues,
technical tools and approaches and procedural considerations.
G. Tracy Mehan III, assistant EPA administrator for water,
discussed the plans in a recent policy statement that expanded on a directive
that he issued in December.
The newest statement lists various mechanisms for watershed
permitting that Mehan describes as "a process that ultimately produces
National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits that are issued
to point sources on a geographic or watershed basis."
In many states that have adopted a watershed approach, he
noted, the most common approach is to reissue NPDES permits on a five-year,
rotating basin schedule. Each source receives an individual permit with permits
related to basins.
Other potential approaches, Mehan said, include a general
permit for common sources such as publicly owned treatment works; a general
permit for collective sources that would be similar to permits for industrial
stormwater discharges; individual permits covering several point sources, and
an integrated municipal permit covering all NPDES requirements for a
municipality. Other approaches will be considered as the permit system evolves,
EPA reports a "large and widespread decrease" in
acid rain falling into lakes and streams of the northeastern and upper
midwestern sections of the country.
The amount of wet sulfate deposition, also known as acidic
precipitation, dropped 40 percent in the decade of the 1990s, the agency said.
The report added that EPA's Acid Rain Program "has
achieved more emission reductions at a faster pace and lower cost than
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