Clean Water Advocacy - News Releases - February 2, 1999
Contact: John Millett, 202/833-4651, AMSA
AMSA Provides TMDL “Survival Guide” for Wastewater Agencies
Feb. 2, 1999 -- The Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies (AMSA) announces the release of Evaluating TMDLs . . . Protecting the Rights of POTWs.
Systematically, in outline form, Evaluating TMDLs . . . Protecting the Rights of POTWs, takes the wastewater agency through every step of the total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) process to make sure the water quality remediation measures are scientifically and legally sound and do not impose expensive water quality controls that will result in no discernible water quality improvements. From the listing of impaired segments to the application of more stringent National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit limits that comprise TMDLs, Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTWs) can use this tool to scrutinize TMDLs and protect their rights.
Few clean water issues are more pressing for POTWs managers than the implementation of TMDLs. TMDLs are plans, which, under the Clean Water Act (CWA), are intended to clean up impaired waters. But while the intention to remediate impaired waters is a noble goal, the implementation -- the actual on the ground clean-up of impaired waters -- is another thing altogether. As this guide demonstrates, the process is fraught with far reaching legal, technical and policy issues that could have dramatic impacts on our society and economy.
Because the process is strewn with potential pitfalls for wastewater agencies, AMSA offers Evaluating TMDLs . . . Protecting the Rights of POTWs as a service to its members and anyone else who can benefit from a step-by-step protocol for analyzing the legal and scientific foundations of TMDLs.
POTWs' Stake in the TMDL Process
There is little doubt. No stronger advocate of clean water exists than AMSA, an association of over 210 of the country's publicly owned wastewater treatment agencies that treat 18 billion gallons of wastewater every day and provide service to the majority of the United States' sewered population. And it is out of this concern for the cleanliness and safety of our nation's waters that AMSA offers this TMDL guide. AMSA's members, who are the foremost environmental practitioners in communities across the country, feel strongly that unless TMDLs are based on firm legal footing, sound science and cost effective approaches, little progress will be made in achieving the next level of clean water. This guide will allow wastewater treatment agencies to analyze the veracity of TMDLs, so that they can assure utility bill-payers that their money is reaping actual environmental benefits.
AMSA is proud to offer this indispensable TMDL evaluation manual to its member wastewater treatment agencies, the regulated community at large, and interested members of the public as a service to all who are concerned with making genuine progress in improving our environment and meeting the CWA's goals of protecting the physical, biological and chemical health of the nation's waters.
POTWs' Top Issues of Concern
Evaluating TMDLs . . . Protecting the Rights of POTWs is an essential document designed by AMSA to help wastewater agencies protect their rights as they are confronted with these pervasive problems in the current TMDL process:
- Hasty Implementation: States and EPA are rushing headlong into what could become an economic and environmental nightmare: the implementation of TMDLs without firm legal or scientific footing. This situation could cost communities across the country untold millions and reap no discernable water quality benefits.
- Legal Ambiguity: EPA may be requiring TMDLs for waters that ought to be cleaned up under other CWA provisions aimed at waters that are impaired only by difficult-to-control nonpoint source pollution or those for which the state must gather further information before slating them for TMDLs. Serious legal questions remain unanswered as to whether certain impaired waters actually belong on state impaired waters lists and clean-up schedules.
- Point Sources' Unfair TMDL Burden: Currently, there is no guarantee that nonpoint sources of water pollution -- runoff from farms, ranches, timber harvests or mining -- will be held as responsible for the impaired waters' clean-up as NPDES permit-holding wastewater treatment plants. Will POTWs and their municipal ratepayers be on the hook to clean up someone else's pollution? Indications are that this will be the case.
- Questionable Science: Under strict court orders, states, in their rush to implement TMDLs may not have all the data necessary to legally impose stricter water quality limits. TMDLs must not only be lawful, but must be based on sound scientific criteria, data and computer modeling if they are to justify the expenditure of millions of dollars in public and private funds.
With an avalanche of TMDL lawsuits across the country pushing state clean water programs and EPA to get moving on TMDLs, there is considerable pressure for EPA and states to do something -- anything -- fast. But as this guide through the current TMDL process demonstrates, speed is not necessarily a virtue when we reckon with the daunting task of remediating our nation's impaired waters.
For copies of Evaluating TMDLs . . . Protecting the Rights of POTWs contact AMSA at 202/833-AMSA.