Water Quality Issues
Clean Water Act
Non-point Source Pollution (NPSP)
We strongly encourage development and implementation of regulatory enforcement mechanisms to control NPSP of the Nation’s water. Since the early 1970’s the regulatory emphasis has been aimed at controlling point source contribution of pollutants to protect and restore the waters of the United States. Whereas, NPSP controls have been implemented on a voluntary basis only, and predominately funded through Federal grant programs. EPA studies and reports identify NPSP as the major cause of water quality impairments nationwide. In the early-1990’s the City of Tulsa became cognizant of water quality impairments in one of our primary drinking water sources. The City commissioned numerous studies to identify causes and sources for this degradation in water quality. NPSP from agricultural activities was identified as the primary source. Absent any regulatory control mechanisms to address these NPSP, the City was required to seek litigious relief. To date the City has spent > $ 5 million identifying, monitoring and treating NPSP in this valuable drinking water source.
Water Quality Standards – Tribal Treatment As States
We strongly encourage legislative amendment to Section 401 of the Act, which authorizes Certification of Water Quality Standards developed by Native American Tribes. Water Quality Standards serve a dual role: they establish water quality benchmarks and provide a basis for the development of water-quality based pollution control programs, including discharge permits, which dictate specific treatment levels required of municipal and industrial wastewater dischargers. The State of Oklahoma alone has 38 federally recognized tribes with noncontiguous tribal lands checker boarding the state. Regulatory permit writers and permittees will have to negotiate a labyrinth of differing water quality standards to establish appropriate pollutant limits to protect water quality. This potentiality appears laborious and onerous for both the regulators and the regulated community.
Water Quality Standards Implementation – Sound Science
We strongly encourage the EPA to establish minimum acceptable analytical methodologies, requiring strict adherence to industry-standard quality assurance and quality control protocols, when monitoring water quality for compliance with standards. States are faced with a daunting, and fiscally challenging, requirement to monitor and assess all waters within their jurisdictions to ascertain attainment of standards and designated uses. Due to EPA’s ambiguous guidance too often analytical methodologies are selected based on costs instead of quality of data generated. This penny-wise pound-foolish approach to assessing compliance with standards has resulted in waters being erroneously listed as impaired. Water Quality standards and criteria are the regulatory and scientific foundation for a multitude of CWA Programs, such as, total maximum daily loads, national pollutant discharge elimination system, non-point source pollution and source water protection just to name a few. Designated use impairments and subsequent listing of waters has significant social and economic impacts for both the regulatory agencies and the regulated communities. Recently, the City expended $20,000 collecting and analyzing samples of our urban streams to invalidate erroneous listings due to use of data generated by a third party using a field screening kit. This concern was echoed in a GAO Report “Watershed Management – Better Coordination of Data Collection to Support Key Decisions” June, 2004.
We strongly support a national Blending Policy that would allow POTW to operate their systems as necessary to meet the effluent standards in their NPDES permits. Current restrictions in NPDES permit language prohibit bypassing secondary treatment processes. Forcing all flow through the secondary process during peak inflow events (storm related) can cause effluent water quality degradation due to solids washout of the secondary processes. Blending and disinfecting partially treated wastewater with high quality secondary wastewater often will improve the overall quality of the POTW effluent. Here again, the POTW should be given the discretion of when it is appropriate to blend as long as they comply with their NPDES effluent limits. The City of Tulsa has spent approximately $50,000,000 on basins to store excess flow and has an annual cost of approximately $200,000 for operation and maintenance of these facilities. Tulsa will have to continue to invest in additional excess flow storage unless a blending policy is adopted.
404 Permitting - Wetlands Taking
We strongly encourage the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reconsider implementation policy in urban settings regarding this Section of the Act. Currently, the City is required to provide in-kind replacement of wetlands at a 3 to 1 ratio, or provide a pond when removing a riverine environment. We are required to design channels that have enough tree cover to protect aquatic habitat and provide enough pools to allow for mobility of biota. This is not very conducive to providing flood and erosion control in limited right of way situations. As we are moving into areas that have developed along side waterways it will become even more challenging to design flood control projects, to protect public health and property, while attempting to maintain rural aquatic habitats. Concurrently, our citizens expect us to protect public health from vectors and pathogenic organism that accumulate in and around these stagnant pools.
Safe Drinking Water Act
Disinfection/Disinfection By-Product Rule Stage 1 (D/DBP1)
We encourage the EPA to return to establishing health-based standards to ensure safe drinking water and abandon their new course of prescriptive regulations as “treatment techniques”. The D/DBP1 has established a treatment technique requiring removal of a surrogate precursor, i.e., total organic carbon (TOC), which may produce DBPs, that has no health-based criterion. If a water system fails to meet this percent removal requirement, then they are required to notify the public within 30 days that there water may not be safe to drink, even though the water system may be in compliance with the health-based standards for the DBPs. This requirement could result in; loss of public confidence in the safety of their drinking water, when no health-based standard has been violated; and dilute the impact of public notification of violations that really are a public health concern.
Proposed Long-Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule (LT2ESWTR)
We encourage the EPA to reconsider the 2-year pathogen-monitoring requirement designed to categorize source water’s potential risk and delineate specific levels of treatment required to protect safety of its drinking water. Many large water systems were required to monitor for these same pathogens in compliance with the Information Collection Rule, which was designed for the purpose of balancing microbial risks against disinfectants, and their resultant by-products, risks. This monitoring redundancy will cost the City of Tulsa ~ $ 40,000.