News | April 26, 2013

Nutrient Removal Addressed At WWEMA's 40th Washington Forum

By Bill King, Water Online

Senior executives from global water and wastewater equipment manufacturers met with top EPA officials on Wednesday April 24, 2013 at the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association’s (WWEMA’s) 40th Washington Forum to understand the water and wastewater regulatory landscape for 2013 and beyond. One of the burgeoning issues discussed was nutrient removal.

Jeff Lape, Deputy Director of the U.S. EPA’s Office of Science and Technology, suggested there will be a continuous movement towards increasingly stringent nutrient standards across the country throughout 2013 and beyond. Lape pointed out that 20 states remain without nutrient standards but expects this to change. This sentiment was echoed on Day Two of the forum when Ed Gillette, president and principal engineer of Environmental Engineering and Management Associates (EEMA) Inc. stated that Pennsylvania is rapidly pursuing Maryland’s reduced nutrient levels and that 850 plants in eastern PA will need to be rebuilt in the next 10 years.

On a separate note, Lape was encouraged by what he described as “Florida taking control” over its numeric nutrient standards after its recent tussle with the EPA  and anticipated the state moving forward in 2013 (see

Sheila Frace, acting deputy director of the EPA Office of Wastewater Management, stressed that the decreasing standards of water quality in rivers and estuaries across the nation is causing states to issue permits with increasingly strict nutrient limits. Frace recognized that these permit limits, coupled with the daunting task of replacing aging water infrastructure, is putting significant strain on municipalities. She suggested that the EPA is working with many utilities to prioritize their capital projects.

H. Jeff Sturdevant, Principal Manager at GHD, an engineering consulting company that has done a lot of work with the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Restoration Project, foresaw a slowing down of this initiative now that most of the larger utilities have curbed their nutrient discharge levels. Sturdevant said that we might see a pause in the activity before it picks up again in 2 to 3 years with smaller facilities. Sturdevant did say that his firm is seeing increasing levels of nutrient removal activity on the West Coast in both Washington and California.

When Lape asked the audience how the EPA could help equipment manufacturers, Dawn Kristof Champney, president of WWEMA (and representing the wishes of many in the Forum), challenged the EPA to “take away the fear of change.” Kristof Champney urged the EPA to create predictability in the market by enforcing current federal regulations and forcing the states to get in line. “Do your job!” suggested Kristof Champney. Lape was quick to add that alongside mandates and enforcement, the EPA is keen to provide utilities the time and flexibility to experiment with new solutions.