Clean Water Advocacy - News Releases - July 18, 2001

For Immediate Release: July 18, 2001
Contact: Adam Krantz

With Key EPA Water Quality Rule Under Review, AMSA Issues White Paper, Outlining Position of Water Treatment Agencies

The Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies (AMSA) is issuing a position paper setting forth the wastewater treatment community’s key positions on the controversial, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) July 2000 total maximum daily load (TMDL) rule governing the cleanup of impaired waters nationwide. From AMSA’s Summer Conference in Milwaukee, Wis., today, AMSA President and Director of Kansas City Water Services Department, Gurnie Gunter, said, “We’re committed to making the TMDL program work and to talking with all stakeholders about how to make this happen. We need to focus on improving water quality for all Americans.”

EPA’s decision to review the Clinton-era rule places key decisions on the future path of the water quality regulation up for grabs, and, if the court agrees with the Agency’s recommendation, will put on hold the pending litigation (American Farm Bureau v. Whitman) over the rule in which AMSA had intervened on behalf of EPA. With EPA reviewing the rule, AMSA is issuing the document titled AMSA’s White Paper on EPA’s July 2000 TMDL Rule, to provide stakeholders with the critical policy stances of the nation’s environmental, water quality practitioners – the publicly owned treatment works (POTWs). The suspension of the regulation and the litigation, however, means that the program will continue as it did before the July 2000 rule. The White Paper is available at

Whatever shape the rule ultimately takes, however, AMSA member involvement is critical. POTWs treat over 18 billion gallons of wastewater a day to ensure a safe and clean water supply, and are among the stakeholders most directly affected by the TMDL rule both as it now stands and as it may appear in the future. The TMDL program is one of the cornerstones of the Clean Water Act, requiring states to set limits on the amount of pollutants that can be discharged into impaired waterbodies, making it a program that broadly impacts POTWs which service the wastewater needs of countless homes and businesses.

In the past, EPA’s impaired waters program has almost exclusively targeted point sources – sources which discharge treated effluent directly into water bodies, such as POTWs. AMSA, however, unequivocally endorses the key provision of the July 2000 TMDL rule that more meaningfully regulates “nonpoint” sources, such as foresters and the farming industry to ensure they do their fair share in cleaning up impaired waters. As the White Paper states, load allocations must be “assigned to nonpoint sources and ‘reasonable assurances’ maintained to ensure their implementation.” Critically, a recent report by the National Research Council on the science underlying the TMDL program, a report that AMSA generally supports, calls for the need to regulate nonpoint sources to achieve water quality. According to EPA’s own statistics, nonpoint source pollution is responsible for the vast majority of the nation’s current waterbody impairment, and AMSA has consistently supported the critical inclusion of nonpoint sources in any viable regulatory water quality program.

AMSA’s White Paper also supports further stakeholder discussion on “retaining provisions that increase the transparency of the listing and delisting” of impaired waters by states and on the issue of an interim permitting guidance that would allow current permit limits “to be upheld in the interim period before TMDLs are complete.” AMSA also believes that further discussion with EPA is necessary to promote state development of consistent processes “to review and revise water quality standards . . . to ensure the foundation of the TMDL program is on solid ground and limited resources are applied effectively.”

Representing the primary guardians of clean and safe water – the POTWs – AMSA strongly urges EPA and Congress toconsider these and other practical, common-sense concerns contained in the White Paper when re-evaluating the July rule.

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