Clean Water Current

NACWA Urges EPA to Withdraw Objection of Municipal POTW Permit Over Nutrient Concerns

Jun 30, 2022

NACWA filed comments June 29 urging U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 5 to withdraw its objection to Ohio EPA’s draft permit for the City of Euclid, Ohio.

The objection was based on application of EPA’s August 2021 Ambient Water Quality Criteria to Address Nutrient Pollution in Lakes and Reservoirs – a document that has met with significant criticism and that state regulatory agencies have barely had time to review much less consider for possible adoption – and use of a regulatory provision to translate narrative criteria into numeric permit limits that NACWA has criticized for years.

NACWA stressed in its letter that the objection is “unlawful, devoid of scientific rigor and due process considerations, and, perhaps most importantly, wholly divorced from any meaningful water quality protection measures for Lake Erie.”  The City is in the midst of a major capital improvement project – largely driven by EPA-mandated spending on wet weather that is pushing the limits of affordability for the community – and already meets the statewide phosphorus limit.

In objecting to the permit, EPA Region 5 ignored the state’s existing approach to nutrients and the state’s determination that no additional reductions by the City were needed at this time, and suggested that the only way to comply with the state’s narrative standards would be to translate them into an unreasonably low numeric phosphorus value of 0.007 mg/L – a concentration that is neither scientifically justifiable nor technologically attainable.  Such an approach would establish a nonsensical precedent that would unnecessarily drive utilities to extreme technical and financial limits.

NACWA is following this issue closely as EPA Region 5 has indicated that it may use a similar approach for other clean water utilities in the Great Lakes region.  Members with questions can contact Chris Hornback, NACWA’s Deputy CEO.

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