October 21, 1999
AMSA Signs on to SSO Advisory Committee Agreement
This week in Williamsburg. Va., AMSA and other organizations represented in the Sanitary Sewer Overflow Federal Advisory Committee (SSO FAC) unanimously approved the basic principles expressed in draft proposed regulations on municipal sewerage collection systems. The agreement comes after three days of intensive discussions in which municipal interests won important concessions on several issues relating to SSOs. The entire SSO FAC supported and recommended the regulatory approach the U.S. Environmental protection Agency (EPA) should take toward the following: a general prohibition on SSOs; capacity, management, operation and maintenance (CMOM) of collection systems; reporting and public notification; remote treatment facilities and satellite collection systems. Prior to the unanimous endorsement, AMSA worked closely with EPA and other stakeholders on substantive changes to the SSO FAC process to ensure its success after hitting several stumbling blocks over the course of five years.
The October 18-20 negotiations resulted in significant compromises that should translate into SSO regulations that provide an appropriate level of flexibility and local control to municipal wastewater agencies. Under draft proposed language agreed to in Williamsburg on the general prohibition of SSOs, the permittee may establish an affirmative defense to an action . . . if the permittee demonstrates through properly signed, contemporaneous operating logs, or other evidence that: (i) the permittee can identify the cause of the discharge event and (ii) the discharge was exceptional, unintentional, temporary and caused by factors beyond the reasonable control of the permittee. AMSA feels this language adequately recognizes the unavoidability of many SSOs.
Another important development during the negotiations was the clarification of EPA's draft proposed CMOM requirements. Rather than a set of prescriptive requirements, CMOM now consists of a series of General Standards that collection systems must meet with the development of a program that ensures that the collection system is properly built, managed and maintained. The implementation of the CMOM program will be considered in any relevant enforcement action. AMSA members will soon receive a Regulatory Alert outlining the complete details of the SSO FAC agreement.
Based on the SSO FAC's recommendations, EPA will draft national SSO regulations. Earlier this year, President Clinton directed EPA to develop the regulations by Spring 2000. With the timing of the SSO FAC's agreement, EPA is on track to propose regulations by that deadline. The National Office will continue to provide information to the Agency during the SSO proposal development and AMSA members will be apprised of further developments on this issue through FaxAlerts, the Clean Water News and Regulatory Alerts and Regulatory Updates.
AMSA Wins Standing to Intervene in Key TMDL Case
Following oral arguments before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, AMSA was granted standing to intervene on behalf of municipal interests in Pronsolino v. EPA. The judge granted AMSA's motion to intervene as a party defendant based on counsel's arguments that AMSA members' National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits would be impacted. Counsel also emphasized that AMSA provides a unique perspective not represented by either EPA or other defendants and that the intervention would not delay the proceedings. AMSA has long asserted that most TMDLs will not improve water quality unless nonpoint sources are included. The National Office will continue to keep the membership informed of developments in the case through Legal Alerts and FaxAlerts.