Water Online's EPA Update: December 29, 2011
Welcome to Water Online's review of the latest U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, resources, and activities related to the water, wastewater, and stormwater industries. EPA offices and programs covered in this installment are listed below. Click on an office or program name to go directly to that section of the article. Office of Water (OW) EPA Extends Comment Period For The Proposed CAFO Rule Success Spotlight: Windmill Gap Creek, West Virginia — Innovative Community Wastewater System Restores Water Quality And Protects Public Health EPA Proposes Updated Vessel General Permit And Permit For Small Vessels Keeping The Clean Water Act Strong — An Op-Ed By former EPA Administrator William K. Reilly National Risk Management Research Laboratory
(NRMRL) Crystal Ball Technology: Visualizing Land-Use Futures EPA land management specialists are helping to generate virtual landscape scenarios for communities in the Farmington Bay Wetlands area of the Great Salt Lake that will enable residents to 'see' the ecological consequences of current land use practices, projected over the next 20 years. The scenarios — which include alternative sustainable views of the same landscape — are created by the Alternative Futures Analysis, a computerized assessment tool that combines with Geographic Information Systems to visually portray the long-term impacts of varying developmental decisions on a
community's ecosystem and quality of life. The answers to these questions formed a set of ecological endpoints or outcomes focusing on the two selected indicators of water quality and avian habitat use. In addition, the four optional scenarios factored in beneficial conservation, restoration and development activities as the bases of a more sustainable ecological future for the area.
Potential Outcomes Environmental Technology Verification (ETV) Program ETV Verified Technologies
Vendor Solicitations For more information on the ETV, visit www.epa.gov/etv. Other EPA News Tennessee Construction Company And Georgia Department Of Transportation Agree To Pay $1.5 Million Penalty To Resolve Clean Water Act Violations U.S. Clean Water Act Settlement In Chicago To Reduce Sewage Overflows Task Force Established By President Obama Releases Final Strategy For Reversing Deterioration Of Gulf Ecosystem EPA To Provide Nearly $2 Million To Revitalize U.S. Urban Waters EPA Annual Enforcement Results Highlights Commitment To Address Largest Pollution Problems With Greatest Community Impact SOURCE: EPA
On October 21, 2011, EPA published a proposed rule that would require concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) to submit basic operational information to the Agency. EPA received requests from the public for additional time to submit comments, and is extending the public comment period to January 19, 2012. EPA proposed the rule in order to more effectively carry out its CAFO permitting programs on a national level and ensure that CAFOs are implementing practices to protect water quality and human health.
For information on the proposed rule, visit http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/afo/aforule.cfm.
EPA's Clean Water Act Section 319 Program provides funding for restoration of nonpoint source-impaired water bodies. Success stories are posted at: http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/nps/success319/. This week's success spotlight shines on Windmill Gap Creek in West Virginia.
Failing household septic systems in McDowell County contributed to water quality impairments in West Virginia's Windmill Gap Creek. As a result, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection added a 2.8-mile segment of the stream to the state's 2006 Clean Water Act impaired waters list for fecal coliform. With federal, state and local support, the Wastewater Treatment Coalition of McDowell County worked with partnering organizations and community residents to install a decentralized community wastewater system, which significantly improved water quality. The stream now meets the state's water quality standard for fecal coliform, and West Virginia will propose removing the segment from state's list of impaired waters in 2012.
For more information on this story, visit: http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/nps/success319/wv_windmill.cfm.
EPA last week issued two draft vessel general permits that would regulate discharges from commercial vessels, excluding military and recreational vessels. The proposed permits would help protect the nation's waters from ship-borne pollutants and reduce the risk of introduction of invasive species from ballast water discharges.
The draft Vessel General Permit, which covers commercial vessels greater than 79 feet in length, would replace the current 2008 Vessel General Permit, when it expires in December 2013. Under the Clean Water Act, permits are issued for a five-year period after which time EPA generally issues revised permits based on updated information and requirements. The new draft small Vessel General Permit would cover vessels smaller than 79 feet in length and would provide such vessels with the Clean Water Act permit coverage they will be required to have as of December 2013.
Both permits will be subject to a 75-day public comment period, which will allow a broad array of stakeholders, including industry and communities, to provide feedback. That information will help inform EPA's decision on the final permits which are expected to go into effect in 2013. EPA intends to issue the final permits in November 2012, a full year in advance, to allow vessel owners and operators time to prepare for new permit requirements.
For the full announcement: http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/1e5ab1124055f3b28525781f0042ed40/b2bc930144417d2a852579580075cb6c!OpenDocument
For more information: http://www.epa.gov/npdes/vessels
William K. Reilly, EPA Administrator from 1989 to 1993, wrote an op-ed in The New York Times about protecting the Clean Water Act against attempts to weaken it. Next year is the 40th anniversary of this landmark law. The op-ed is available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/29/opinion/keep-the-clean-water-act-strong.html
History richly demonstrates the unforeseen consequences (groundwater pollution, soil erosion, urban blight) of misguided community land-use decisions. Political and economic pressures play a role, but an important factor has been lack of information. Until recently, it has not been technologically possible for community planners to forecast the long-term ecological consequences of project-by-project decisions. But the maturing of the specialties of Landscape Ecology and Information Technology is providing new tools to actually visualize the environmental and quality-of-life impacts of community land-use decisions. Two examples of new landscape technology are: Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and the Alternative Futures Analysis (AFA), a computerized evaluation framework. Working in tandem, these two technologies are enabling resource managers and residents to virtually see (from a bird's eye or satellite view) how a community and the ecosystem that support it will look in a specified number of years, given current land-use practices. The systems also design alternative scenarios using sustainable land-use practices.
The Alternative Futures Analysis
The Alternative Futures Analysis (AFA), developed in 1990 by Harvard professor Carl Steinitz, integrates GIS maps to display multiple layers of information such as soils, terrain shape, hydrology, species diversity, proposed development, and other factors impacting the biodiversity of a given area. A recent EPA cooperative project using the AFA, selected two ecological outcomes — water quality and diversity of avian habitat--as indicators of ecosystem health in the Farmington Bay Wetlands near the Great Salt Lake. Water quality in the area is currently under threat from encroaching commercial development and an annual two-percent population increase. Bird habitat in the area is also threatened: The wetlands provide essential habitat for waterfowl, as well as migratory shorebirds and water birds from both the Pacific and Central flyways of North America. The Farmington Bay research goal was to develop a series of AFA landscape scenarios to allow residents to visualize how the regional landscape will look by 2030 if current land-use development continues, along with some alternative scenarios based on sustainable land-use practices.
Researchers constructed the AFA scenarios by posing the following fundamental questions:
Using satellite imagery (the same type used by Google-Earth), combined with ground-level GIS evaluations of wetlands and land use of the surrounding community, the project researchers constructed a current land-use scenario, plus four alternative visions of land use projected out to the year 2030. Some notable elements of the scenarios:
The GIS/AFA system is a transparent way of organizing and communicating complex scientific information to a diverse group of stakeholders. Explicit community-wide ecosystem management goals can be more readily achieved through an open community process that illustrates a set of plausible and visible alternative futures. The technology is flexible enough to deal with the potential challenges revealed in the AFA optional scenarios. And the two basic indicators (water quality and avian habitat use) selected for this study can be expanded for more elaborate conservation planning models. "Seeing" the future through AFA models can help communities determine whether the quality of life they want for themselves is sustainable, given their present land-use practices. Best of all, it can also show them a vision of an achievable future.
For more detailed information on the AFA analysis of the Farmington Bay Wetlands, visit: Alternative Futures Analysis of Farmington Bay Wetlands in the Great Salt Lake Ecosystem (PDF) (106 pp, 31. MB) (EPA/600/R-10/032) March 2010
The ETV Program has verified the performance of 460 innovative environmental technologies that can be used to monitor, prevent, control, and clean up pollution. For a full list of ETV verifications, visit http://www.epa.gov/etv/verifiedtechnologies.html.
ETV centers issue periodic solicitations for vendors and collaborators interested in verification. For a list of active ETV vendor solicitations, please visit www.epa.gov/etv/vendorswanted.html, or contact the appropriate ETV center (see www.epa.gov/etv/contacts.html).
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Wright Brothers Construction Co. and the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) have agreed to pay a $1.5 million penalty and spend more than $1.3 million to offset environmental damages to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA). The civil penalty is one of the largest ever under the CWA provisions prohibiting the unauthorized discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States.
"Dumping dirt and waste rock into our nation's waters threatens water quality and aquatic habitats," said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "Today's settlement will restore damaged streams, protecting trout habitat and recreational opportunities for the people of northeastern Georgia."
"Construction projects, including important expansions of highway infrastructure, must be conducted in full compliance with the Clean Water Act, which protects our nation's waterways, aquatic habitats and recreational resources from harm." said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division at the Department of Justice. "This settlement will restore and mitigate pollution of area streams for the benefit of the people of Georgia."
The complaint alleges that between 2004 and 2007, Wright Brothers, with approval from GDOT, buried and buried all or portions of seven primary trout streams in violation of the CWA. Wright Brothers was hired by GDOT to dispose of excess soil and rock generated during two GDOT highway expansion projects in northeast Georgia. The contracts between GDOT and Wright Brothers specifically required Wright Brothers to obtain written environmental clearance from GDOT prior to using any site as a fill site. GDOT approved sites that included streams considered to be waters of the United States. These actions resulted in the unauthorized disposal of more than one million cubic yards of excess rock and soil, impacting approximately 2,800 linear feet of stream.
Burying and piping streams can destroy valuable aquatic habitat and threaten water quality. The reduced water quality may have adversely impacted downstream trout populations, which are a major recreational resource to the region. All of the streams that were filled are tributaries of either Lake Burton or Tallulah Falls Lake.
Under the settlement, Wright Brothers and GDOT must perform injunctive relief measures, including purchasing 16,920 mitigation credits at an estimated cost of $1.35 million to offset the impacts to waters of the United States that cannot be restored. The credits must be purchased from mitigation banks servicing the area in which the violations occurred. A mitigation bank is a wetland, stream, or other aquatic resource area that has been set aside for the purpose of providing compensation for impacts to aquatic resources that occurred under a federal, state, or local permit.
Wright Brothers and GDOT will also remove the piping from and restore the bed and bank of a 150-foot stream channel that was impacted from the disposal activities. The estimated cost of this work is $25,000. When complete, the restoration activities and injunctive relief measures will mitigate the 2,800 feet of stream impacted by the CWA violations.
The settlement is subject to a 30-day comment period and final court approval.
More information on the settlement: www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/cases/civil/cwa/wrightbrothers.html
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the State of Illinois announced a Clean Water Act (CWA) settlement with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) to resolve claims that untreated sewer discharges were released into Chicago area waterways during flood and wet weather events. The settlement will safeguard water quality and protect people's health by capturing stormwater and wastewater from the combined sewer system, which services the city of Chicago and 51 communities.
"Today's settlement will prevent polluted stormwater runoff from flowing through Chicago area neighborhoods and into local waterways," said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "Combining innovative stormwater management practices, like rain gardens, with necessary infrastructure overhauls will protect peoples' health and provide area residents with improved recreational opportunities."
"These much needed upgrades to Chicago's sewer infrastructure will reduce combined sewage overflows and the public's exposure to harmful pathogens," said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. "The use of innovative green infrastructure in the city's urban core will reduce runoff and flooding, and improve the quality of the environment where people live."
"This settlement mandates that MWRD make critical structural changes to improve the quality of Chicago's waterways," said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. "By requiring green infrastructure projects, the agreement will also help reduce runoff and flooding for Chicago area residents."
Under the settlement, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) will work to complete a tunnel and reservoir plan to increase its capacity to handle wet weather events and address combined sewer overflow discharges. The project will be completed in a series of stages in 2015, 2017 and 2029. The settlement also requires MWRD to control trash and debris in overflows using skimmer boats to remove debris from the water so it can be collected and properly managed, making waterways cleaner and healthier. MWRD is also required to implement a green infrastructure program that will reduce stormwater runoff in areas serviced by MWRD by distributing rain barrels and developing projects to build green roofs, rain gardens, or use pervious paving materials in urban neighborhoods. MWRD has also agreed to pay a civil penalty of $675,000.
Raw sewage contains pathogens that threaten public health, leading to beach closures and public advisories against fishing and swimming. This problem particularly affects older urban areas, where minority and low-income communities are often located. Keeping raw sewage and contaminated stormwater out of the waters of the United States is one of EPA's National Enforcement Initiatives for 2011 to 2013. The initiative focuses on reducing discharges from sewer overflows by obtaining cities' commitments to implement timely, affordable solutions to these problems, including the increased use of green infrastructure and other innovative approaches.
More information on settlement: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/cases/civil/cwa/mwrd.html
More about EPA's National Enforcement Initiatives: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/data/planning/initiatives/index.html
The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force recently released its final strategy for long term ecosystem restoration for the Gulf Coast, following extensive feedback from citizens throughout the region. EPA Administrator and Task Force Chair Lisa P. Jackson, partnering with Task Force Co-Chair Garret Graves, made the announcement recently during keynote remarks at the 2011 State of the Gulf of Mexico Summit in Houston. Administrator Jackson was joined by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator Jane Lubchenco, Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley, USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Harris Sherman and several other Task Force members.
The Task Force delivered the final strategy on Friday, Dec. 2 to President Barack Obama, who established the Task Force by executive order, to continue the Administration's ongoing commitment to the Gulf region. The group is made up of representatives from the five Gulf States and 11 federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, White House Council on Environmental Quality, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of the Interior, Department of Justice, Department of Transportation, Office of Management and Budget, Office of Science and Technology Policy and White House Domestic Policy Council.
The strategy is the first restoration blueprint ever developed for the Gulf to include input from states, tribes, federal agencies, local governments and thousands of involved citizens and organizations across the region. The plan represents a commitment by all parties to continue to work together in an unprecedented collaboration to prepare the Gulf region to transition from response to recovery and address the decades-long decline that the Gulf's ecosystem has endured. Read more.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced it will provide up to $1.8 million for projects across the country to protect Americans' health and help restore urban waters by improving water quality and supporting community revitalization. The funding is part of EPA's Urban Waters program, which supports communities in their efforts to access, improve and benefit from their urban waters and the surrounding land. Urban waters are canals, rivers, lakes, wetlands, aquifers, estuaries, bays and oceans.
Many urban waterways have been polluted for years by sewage, runoff from city streets and contamination from abandoned industrial facilities. Healthy and accessible urban waters can help grow local businesses and enhance educational, recreational, employment and social opportunities in nearby communities. By promoting public access to urban waterways, EPA will help communities become active participants in restoration and protection.
The goal of EPA's urban waters small grants is to fund projects, training and research that will advance restoration of urban waters by improving water quality and community access. These activities will also support community revitalization and improving public health, social and economic opportunities, general livability and environmental justice for residents. Read more.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its annual enforcement and compliance results. EPA's enforcement and compliance program enforces environmental laws that protect our nation's air, land and water by taking action to cut illegal pollution and protect people's health and communities. In fiscal year Fiscal Year 2011, EPA enforcement actions led to more than 1.8 billion pounds in pollution reduced, an estimated $19 billion in required pollution controls and approximately $168 million in civil penalties.
"Our annual results reflect the fact that a strong and effective enforcement program is good for responsible businesses, public health and communities across the country," said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "As we continue our focus on the most serious pollution problems, we expect to see better environmental performance and greater public health benefits." Read more.
Welcome to Water Online's review of the latest U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, resources, and activities related to the water, wastewater, and stormwater industries. EPA offices and programs covered in this installment are listed below. Click on an office or program name to go directly to that section of the article.
Office of Water (OW)
EPA Extends Comment Period For The Proposed CAFO Rule
Success Spotlight: Windmill Gap Creek, West Virginia — Innovative Community Wastewater System Restores Water Quality And Protects Public Health
EPA Proposes Updated Vessel General Permit And Permit For Small Vessels
Keeping The Clean Water Act Strong — An Op-Ed By former EPA Administrator William K. Reilly
National Risk Management Research Laboratory (NRMRL)
Crystal Ball Technology: Visualizing Land-Use Futures
EPA land management specialists are helping to generate virtual landscape scenarios for communities in the Farmington Bay Wetlands area of the Great Salt Lake that will enable residents to 'see' the ecological consequences of current land use practices, projected over the next 20 years. The scenarios — which include alternative sustainable views of the same landscape — are created by the Alternative Futures Analysis, a computerized assessment tool that combines with Geographic Information Systems to visually portray the long-term impacts of varying developmental decisions on a
community's ecosystem and quality of life.
The answers to these questions formed a set of ecological endpoints or outcomes focusing on the two selected indicators of water quality and avian habitat use.
In addition, the four optional scenarios factored in beneficial conservation, restoration and development activities as the bases of a more sustainable ecological future for the area.
Environmental Technology Verification (ETV) Program
ETV Verified Technologies
For more information on the ETV, visit www.epa.gov/etv.
Other EPA News
Tennessee Construction Company And Georgia Department Of Transportation Agree To Pay $1.5 Million Penalty To Resolve Clean Water Act Violations
U.S. Clean Water Act Settlement In Chicago To Reduce Sewage Overflows
Task Force Established By President Obama Releases Final Strategy For Reversing Deterioration Of Gulf Ecosystem
EPA To Provide Nearly $2 Million To Revitalize U.S. Urban Waters
EPA Annual Enforcement Results Highlights Commitment To Address Largest Pollution Problems With Greatest Community Impact