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February 5, 1999

AMSA's New TMDL Publication Will Help Protect POTWs' Rights

This week AMSA released a ground breaking document designed to help publicly owned treatment works(POTWs) respond to the application of total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) to their receiving waters as part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) national water quality program. Evaluating TMDLs … Protecting the Rights of POTWs includes a concise outline of critical issues raised by the TMDL and water quality based effluent limits programs that are affecting POTWs nationwide. Step by step through the TMDL process, the outline poses a series of legal, scientific and policy arguments that POTWs can use in their efforts to ensure that states and EPA are appropriately developing and implementing TMDLs. It is crucial for POTWs to scrutinize TMDLs and intervene legally or administratively if the process goes awry because the complicated task of remediating the nation's impaired waters carries far-reaching political, economic and social implications for communities across the country. The publication is intended to be a “work in progress” that will evolve as the TMDL program changes with new regulations, policy and litigation.

As the TMDL program moves forward, AMSA members must ensure that the resulting requirements do not unfairly place the lion's share of compliance responsibility on point source dischargers, who, unlike nonpoint sources, are subject to enforceable controls in their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits. Because the majority of nonpoint sources lack enforceable control mechanisms, POTWs and other point source dischargers face increasingly stringent requirements due to TMDLs.

AMSA recognizes that the TMDL process is strewn with potential pitfalls for POTWs because states and EPA, under court-ordered deadlines, are rushing to implement TMDLs in the face of limited funding and resources, and in some cases, with questionable legal authority. In order to ensure that POTWs' interests are protected, AMSA urges members to consider all administrative and legal options in dealing with inappropriately applied TMDLs. Evaluating TMDLs will allow POTWs to analyze the veracity of TMDLs,so that wastewater agencies can assure ratepayers that their money is reaping actual environmental benefits. The guide includes detailed sections on evaluating listing procedures, scientific support, water quality standards, POTW-led TMDLs, the removal process and permits.

Unveiled at AMSA's winter conference in Phoenix, Ariz. this week, Evaluating TMDLs was warmly received by AMSA members in attendance. And, via Legal Alert 99-1, AMSA forwarded the publication to all members and affiliates. The Association also anticipates that the publication will serve as an important tool in its outreach to non-member agencies.

Record Numbers Attend AMSA's Winter Conference

Highlighting the importance that wastewater agencies across the country are placing on competitiveness issues, record numbers attended AMSA's winter conference, Running Your Utility as a Business … Entrepreneurial Successes in the Wastewater Industry, held in Phoenix, Ariz. this week. Various conference sessions dealing with a wide spectrum of management issues engaged a broad cross-section of wastewater professionals in important discussions on improving POTW management in an ever more competitive climate. The February issue of AMSA's Clean Water News will include an order form for audio tapes showcasing all the conference sessions.