April 17, 2000
From the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies
EPA to drop drinking water source provision in Final TMDL Rule
In letters to Congress, state officials, EPA outlined changes to the proposed TMDL Rule that include dropping the requirement that states give top priority to addressing polluted water that are drinking water sources.
The changes, which address concerns about the economic impact of the rule on discharges and states, were announced in letters to Senator Robert C. Smith (R-NH), Representative Bud Shuster (R-PA), and the Environmental Council of States.
It appears EPA is taking these measures in an effort to remove some of the controversial provisions from the proposed rule. EPA's planned changes to the proposed rule include:
- Dropping the provision that would prohibit new or significantly expanded discharges in impaired waters without pollution offesets.
- Dropping the requirement that polluted water lists include "threatened" waters.
- Dropping the requirement that states give top priority to addressing polluted waters that serve as sources of drinking water and support endangered species.
- Clarifying that CWA permits will not be required for diffuse runoff from forestry operations under any circumstances.
- Reiterating that states retain authority to regulate nonpoint sources of water pollution.
A final rule is expected this summer.
Smith, Crapo introduce bill to delay TMDL Rule
Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Robert C. Smith (R-NH) and Subcommittee Chairman Michael Crapo (R-ID) introduced a bill to delay implementation of the TMDL Rule for 18 months. Smith and Crapo are critical of the rule due to its potential impact on agricultural interests and EPA's tenuous authority to regulate nonpoint sources of pollution under the Clean Water Act.
The bill, S. 2417, also would boost grants to state nonpoint source programs in fiscal year 2001.
In related developments, 10 senators are expected to ask Senator Christopher Bond, chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee with jurisdiction over EPA's budget, to include in the fiscal year 2001 EPA Spending Bill, a provision delaying the rule.
Nearly one-third of the Senate has signed a letter calling on EPA to withdraw the TMDL proposal. Reportedly, the lettter was delivered to Administrator Carol Browner last week.
Public Notification Rule finalized
The Final Public Notification Rule was signed by the EPA Administrator on April 7 and will appear in the FEDERAL REGISTER within the next week. This new rule is intended:
- To require faster public notificaiton in emergencies and fewer notices overall,
- To result in notices that better communicate the potential health risks from drinking water violations and how to avoid such risks.
- To enable water systems to better target notices based on the risks.
- To make the process less burdensome for water suppliers and easier for consumers to understand.
The new requirements do not apply to water systems in states with primacy progras until two years from publication, unless states choose to adopt the new requirements earlier. However, water systems in Wyoming, Washington, DC and tribal lands, where EPA directly implements the drinking water programs, must comply with the new requirements 180 days after publication.
EPA will soon issue a Public Notification Handbook to help water systems in implementing the new rule. The handbook will provide templates for notices and other aids to help water systems develop notices for violations. A draft of this handbook can be found on EPA's Website (click here). Address is: http://www.epa.gov/safewater/pn.html
The handbook is in final review. No major changes are expected.
Senator Bond investigates EPA spending
Suspecting that EPA has violated congressional directives on spending, Senator Christopher Bond reportedly has launched an investigation covering fiscal years 1999 and 2000. According to news reports, Bond found instances where EPA cut funding to core programs without informing appropriators. Bond chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee with jurisdiction over EPA's budget.
Water conservation repeal bill defeated
The House Energy and Power Subcommittee last week defeated HR 623, the bill repealing water conservation standards for plumbing fixtures. The 13-to-12 vote to defeat was largely accomplished by water systems in areas of the U.S. affected by shortages of potable water. However, even water systems with plentiful water helped defeat the bill, due to the importance of water conservation and the fact that water efficiency standards contribute to reduced infrastructure costs.
EPA finalizes revisions to Interim ESWTR and Stage-1 DBPR
Last Friday, the revisions to the Interim Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule (IESWTR) and the Stage-1 Disinfectant and Disinfection Byproducts Rule (Stage 1 DBPR) were published in the FEDERAL REGISTER. Specific changes addressed in the notice included:
- Revising the compliance dates for the two rules to facilitate implementation.
- Extending the use of new analytical methods udner the rules to the longstanding TTHM Rule.
- Clarifying regulatory language.
Since changes to the rules were not viewed as controversial, the rule was published as a direct final rule.
EPA publishes Filter Backwash Rule
The Proposed Filter Backwash Rule appeared in the FEDERAL REGISTER, April 10, 2000. The EPA set a 60-day comment period for this rule and comments are due to EPA on June 9, 2000.
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