In order to implement the requirements of the Clean Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency created the Federal Water Quality Standards regulations, found at 40 CFR Part 131. Water Quality standards including but not limited to Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) and National Pollutant Discharge Eliminations System (NPDES) permits, are the foundation for water quality-based pollution control systems.
The EPA has announced that in the Summer of 2011 they expect to publish a proposed rule to clarify six areas of concern under the Clean Water Act including: Antidegradation implementation methods; Administrator’s determination; Designated uses; Variances to water quality standards; Triennial review scope and requirements; and Updating the regulation to reflect court decisions. The goal of these rule changes will be to improve water quality standards effectiveness and help to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological intergrity of US waters.
Current regulations allow states and authorized tribes to identify the method to implement antidegradiation polices but does not specification the implementation methods. Furthermore, under 40 CFR 131.13, states and authorized tribes are allowed to adopt variances as general policies for applying and implementing their water quality standards. However, the regulation does not define, describe , or list requirements for use variances. The EPA is therefore considering modifying the regulation to specify that antidegradation implementation methods must meet specific minimum requirements and establishing regulatory requirements for variances to ensure proper use of variances and reduce the possibility of inappropriate use.
Finally, in order to update the regulations to reflect current case decisions, the EPA is considering:
• revising the definition of "water quality standard" to more clearly define which of state or tribal provisions constitute water quality standards that need to be submitted to EPA for review and approval.
• specifying that authorizing provisions for compliance schedules for implementing water quality-based effluent limits in NPDES permits must be adopted as part of a state's or tribe's water quality standards and be submitted to the EPA for review and approval
• clarifying that states and authorized tribes must submit EPA records of public participation, such as a public comment, that has occurred in reviewing and revising state or tribal water quality standards.
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