News Feature | February 5, 2014

Wisconsin May Amend Phosphorus Discharge Requirements

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


A new phosphorous compliance bill was recently introduced into the Wisconsin state legislature.

The bill, titled the Clean Waters, Healthy Economy Act, "creates a new option for point-source dischargers in Wisconsin complying with the state’s strict numeric phosphorus water quality standard," according to the National Law Review.

The existing framework for phosphorous in Wisconsin is summarized in the Review piece by attorneys at Michael Best & Friedrich: "Current law provides a point source three options to comply with phosphorus discharge limits: 1) install new technology to remove more phosphorus from wastewater flows, 2) utilize adaptive management or water quality trading, or 3) seek a traditional variance."

The legislation introduces a fourth choice: "Opt into a legislated variance," the report said. 

This option would require point sources to "reduce the phosphorus they discharge to the extent practical, while also paying fees that will be directed to counties to use in working at the local level to reduce nonpoint contributions to Wisconsin’s surface waters," the report said. 

The Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters spoke up against the bill, stating that phosphorous is a major threat to Wisconsin water. 

The legislation "could undermine ongoing efforts to improve Wisconsin’s water quality by allowing those responsible for phosphorous pollution to pay a fee rather than participate in a collaborative effort to reduce phosphorus pollution. In addition, some phosphorous polluters could delay compliance with water quality standards for ten years or more," the group said. 

The bill has wide support from industry The Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce said it "adds a new compliance option for meeting Wisconsin’s uniquely stringent phosphorus discharge standard and should lower compliance costs while delivering improved environmental outcomes."  

The reform bill was introduced by Republican lawmakers Sen. Rob Cowles, Sen. Paul Farrow, and Rep. Amy Loudenbeck.

For more legal maneuverings related to water, check out Water Online's Regulations and Legislation Solution Center

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