EPA Releases Key Wet Weather Policy Based Upon NRDC/NACWA Agreement

Clean Water Advocacy - News Releases - December 19, 2005

For Immediate Release: December 19, 2005
Contact: Alexandra Dunn, 202.533.1803

EPA Releases Key Wet Weather Policy Based Upon NRDC/NACWA Agreement
The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) is pleased to announce that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today publicly released for comment a draft policy based upon the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)/NACWA negotiated agreement on the issue of peak wet weather flow management. NACWA and NRDC representatives were present when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Assistant Administrator for Water, Benjamin Grumbles, made this important announcement early this afternoon at EPA Headquarters in Washington, DC.

Language from the preamble to EPA’s draft policy demonstrates the joint leadership of NACWA and NRDC on this issue: “The NRDC/NACWA recommended approach includes an interpretation of the bypass regulation that is significantly different from [EPA’s] November 2003 proposal. . . . Today’s draft policy invites comment on this interpretation, as well as the recommended proposal to implement the interpretation, and reflects the approach of the NRDC/NACWA recommendation.” The draft policy will appear shortly in the Federal Register with a 30-day comment period. NACWA is confident the public comments will demonstrate broad support for EPA’s swift finalization of the policy.

Specifically, the NRDC/NACWA agreement underlying today’s draft policy offered EPA a sound path forward on an issue that had become highly politicized and appeared to have reached an unfortunate impasse. EPA’s proposal: 1) provides much-needed national consistency on wet weather flow diversions; 2) offers significant additional environmental and water quality benefits; and 3) ensures necessary public involvement with, and municipal flexibility in making, peak wet weather flow management decisions.

As NACWA’s Executive Director, Ken Kirk, notes, “EPA’s release today demonstrates that sound policy can result when organizations stay focused on the critical mission of improving water quality and protecting the public health. I am extremely pleased to see EPA release such a critical document. This is a tremendous success for the nation’s clean water future and shows that progress can be made on tough issues when we work to find collaborative solutions to difficult problems.”

As the proposal suggests, many municipalities currently have situations in which high peak influent flows during significant wet weather events exceed the treatment capacity of existing secondary treatment units. In these situations, wet weather flows are sometimes diverted around secondary treatment units and then either recombined with flows from the secondary treatment units or discharged directly into waterways from the treatment plant. The proposal only applies to those diversions as they are recombined, and as they occur in separate sanitary sewer systems. Notably, peak wet weather diversions in combined sewer systems are already regulated in a similar way pursuant to the 1994 Combined Sewer Overflow Policy.

EPA’s proposal would benefit the nation’s water quality by minimizing the reliance of clean water facilities on peak wet weather flow diversions as a long-term wet weather management approach to the maximum extent feasible, taking into account the economic and real-world factors detailed in the proposal. NACWA believes that the proposal’s enhanced public notice provisions will improve the understanding and knowledge of peak wet weather flow diversion practices at public utilities.

A select group of NACWA members provided tremendous input into the agreement which led to today’s draft policy. Feel free to contact the NACWA, and NRDC, representatives below for more information on this issue.

Additional Press Contacts

  1. Karen Pallansch, Engineer-Director, Alexandria Sanitation Authority, Alexandria, Va., 703/549-3381 (2202)
  2. Ray Orvin, Executive Director, West Carolina Regional Sewer Authority, Greenville, S.C., 864/299-4012
  3. Don Theiler, Director, Wastewater Treatment Division, King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks, Seattle, Wash., 206/684-1741
  4. Mark Yeager, Utility Services Manager, City of Albany, Ore., 541/917-7658
  5. David R. Williams, Director of Wastewater, East Bay Municipal Utility District, Oakland, Calif., 510/287-1496
  6. Nancy Stoner, Director, Clean Water Project, Natural Resources Defense Council, Washington, D.C., 202/289-2394

NACWA is a national trade association representing hundreds of the nation's publicly owned wastewater treatment utilities. NACWA members serve the majority of the sewered population in the United States and collectively treat and reclaim over 18 billion gallons of wastewater every day. NACWA members are environmental practitioners dedicated to protecting and improving the nation's waters and public health.

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