EPA approves more than 9,000 Total Maximum Daily Loads

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Assistant Administrator G. Tracy Mehan III announced that the Agency has approved more than 9,000 Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), which provide information about what pollution reductions are needed to meet water quality standards under the Clean Water Act.

Nov. 18, 2003 -- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Assistant Administrator G. Tracy Mehan III announced that the Agency has approved more than 9,000 Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), which provide information about what pollution reductions are needed to meet water quality standards under the Clean Water Act.

Of the more than 9,000 TMDLs approved to date, over 4,000 have been approved since Jan. 2001.

"These numbers show that EPA has made substantial progress over the past three years in the TMDL Program," Mehan said. "Prior to 1998, fewer than 1,000 TMDLs were completed. Thus, there has been an unprecedented increase in the number of TMDLs approved by EPA."

The Clean Water Act requires states to identify waters not meeting water quality standards and to establish Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) which describe reductions in loadings necessary to meet these water quality goals. TMDLs identify sources of the pollution and the reductions needed to achieve state water quality standards.

In essence, TMDLs establish "pollution budgets" which allocate the load among the sources of the pollutant. These pollution budgets are translated into permit requirements for point sources. For other pollution sources, the program relies on local, state and federal watershed plans and programs to determine priorities for implementation.

TMDLs are a key tool for addressing the nation's remaining water quality problems. Since the early 1990's, states and EPA have been using the TMDL Program to identify where water quality problems remain. Through the TMDL Program, states develop lists of impaired waters and then TMDLs are done for those impaired waters. TMDLs provide key information on the sources of pollution and provide a roadmap for implementing solutions.

"EPA is committed to implementing a TMDL Program that is effective, innovative and focuses on achieving clean water across the nation," said Diane Regas, Director, EPA's Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds.

EPA has been working closely with the states to approve record number of TMDLs to identify and publicize innovative, effective TMDLs, and has given priority in its Clean Water Act section 319 Nonpoint Source Program for funding of development and implementation of TMDLs. Numbers of TMDLs approved are one indicator of success for the TMDL Program. The ultimate indicator of success is that the TMDLs are actually implemented as part of watershed plans and water quality goals are met.

EPA is pleased to report that this is happening in a number of localities.

For example:

• Hickey Run, a stream that discharges into the Anacostia River, in the District of Columbia was listed as impaired due to oil and grease. A TMDL was approved by EPA and the District has been implementing an education program in the drainage area to get the automobile service industries to use better waste management practices and has also continued visual inspections of the stream for oil and grease. EPA approved the District's updated list of impaired waters in March 2003 and Hickey Run was no longer listed as impaired by oil and grease due to the District's implementation efforts.

• In 2002, Connecticut began implementing a TMDL to reduce nitrogen loads to Long Island Sound. The State is using an innovative trading program to reduce by 64% the nitrogen discharges from 79 wastewater treatment plants that eventually drain to the Sound. After the first year of trading, nitrogen loadings to the Sound have been reduced from 2000 levels by more than 35%.

• EPA approved a TMDL in Feb. 2001, which called for a 30% reduction in sediment delivered to Lake Sharpe from the Bad River in South Dakota.

Lake Sharpe is a reservoir on the Missouri River. In addition, State funds, the Clean Water Act section 319 Nonpoint Source Program, and U.S. Department of Agriculture cost sharing have been used to implement agricultural practices in the Bad River Watershed. Data from the Army Corps of Engineers in 2001 show that there has been a 40% reduction in sediment delivered from the Bad River to Lake Sharpe. Due to these reductions, Lake Sharpe was removed from South Dakota's 2002 list of impaired waters.

EPA is continuing efforts to improve the TMDL Program in order to further enhance the quality of the nation's waters. States and EPA continue to work to improve the quality of the TMDLs and to use the TMDLs to achieve water quality standards. For more information on EPA's TMDL Program, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/owow/tmdl/

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