EPA Action: Agency integrates hazardous materials into national response plan

In other news: 1) Agency finalizes water quality plan for northern California's Eel River; 2) Chesapeake Bay cleanup gets boost as six states and DC agree to set limits on nutrients from treatment plants; 3) Agency fines Arizona water treatment facility for failing to maintain chemical risk plan; and 4) Agency approves La. DEQ water permitting program changes...

Also below:
-- Agency finalizes water quality plan for northern California's Eel River;
-- Chesapeake Bay gets boost as 6 states, DC agree to limit treatment plant nutrients;
-- Arizona water treatment facility fined for not maintaining chemical risk plan, and
-- Agency approves La. DEQ water permitting program changes...

EPA integrates hazardous materials into federal national response plan
WASHINGTON, DC, Jan. 6, 2005 -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) joins the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other partners in the emergency preparedness and response community in heralding the release of the National Response Plan.

Under DHS leadership, EPA and a broad coalition of experts from federal, state, local and tribal governments, as well as representatives from the private sector, contributed to the development of this landmark document. By incorporating a comprehensive all-hazards approach, the National Response Plan represents a significant milestone in the nation's ability to prepare for and respond to national disasters or terrorist attacks.

The National Response Plan unifies and reconciles several previous existing national response plans and systems, including the National Response System. Under the Plan, EPA provides response assistance for national emergencies involving releases of hazardous materials, including chemical, biological and radiological substances.

EPA has a great deal of experience effectively managing responses to emergencies involving the release of oil or hazardous substances. EPA has historically played a unique role in containing and removing hazardous contaminants from land and water, and ensuring protection of human health and the environment.

During 2005, EPA will join DHS and other federal, state, and local agencies in exercises designed to provide emergency planning and response officials with the opportunity to use the new NRP under various emergency scenarios. The unified and comprehensive framework provided by the NRP will be an essential part of these exercises and the overall effort to continuously improve the Nation's emergency preparedness and response capabilities.

For more information on the National Response Plan visit: www.dhs.gov.

EPA finalizes water quality plan to restore northern Calif.'s Eel river
SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 5, 2005 -- Last week the EPA Region 9 Office finalized water quality plans for the Upper Eel River and several tributaries in Lake and Mendocino counties, Calif. in an effort to restore and protect native fish. The plans, known as a total maximum daily loads (TMDLs), recommend reducing sediment and protecting trees that provide shade necessary to protect several species of steelhead and salmon, some of which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

"We need to continue current efforts to reduce sediment runoff to the Eel River and restore natural stream temperatures to protect vital fish habitat in the area," said Alexis Strauss, director of the water division for the EPA's Pacific Southwest Region. "These plans will help target the most the most important pollution sources and accelerate the restoration of this important watershed."

The agency evaluated the effects of a local dam, native trees and numerous dirt roads to determine how to restore the river. Timber harvesting, runoff from dirt roads and the removal of native plants have contributed to the excess sediment and increasing stream temperatures, which have led to the decline of the river's native fish population.

The TMDL recommends reducing the amount of human erosion to one part for every four parts nature contributes. The TMDL also requires steps that will increase the amount of shade to the river, such as allowing the natural plants to grow back.

The North Coast region of the California Water Quality Control Board is now responsible for developing plans to implement the TMDL, which meet legal requirements of the federal Clean Water Act.

For more information, see:
-- www.epa.gov/owow/tmdl/, and
-- www.epa.gov/owow/tmdl/intro.html.

Chesapeake Bay gets boost as 6 states, DC agree to limit treatment plant nutrients
PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 3, 2005 -- The EPA has reached agreement with six states and the District of Columbia on a permitting approach that will set permit limits on nutrients being discharged from more than 350 municipal and industrial wastewater treatment facilities throughout the 64,000-square-mile Chesapeake Bay watershed, according to a news release from the agency's Region 3 Office.

These permit limits would result in the reduction of about 17.5 million pounds of nitrogen and about one million pounds of phosphorus entering the Chesapeake Bay each year, which will directly help improve water quality.

"This is a pivotal step in the cleanup and protection of the Chesapeake Bay. The EPA and the states have committed to making the Bay a healthy environment where plants, fish and other aquatic life can thrive and coexist with development," said Donald S. Welsh, regional administrator for the agency's mid-Atlantic region.

The discharge of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous) from wastewater treatment is one of the most serious problems affecting the Chesapeake Bay. Excessive nutrients in the Bay cause algae blooms in the water, which leads to oxygen depletion and other adverse impacts on water quality. Excessive algae growth can also block sunlight that is critical to support plant and aquatic life.

States and the EPA issue permits to all wastewater treatment facilities which regulate the amount of pollutants that can been discharged into waterways after treatment. The permitting approach announced today describes a consistent basin-wide approach to issue permits that include measurable and enforceable limits for nitrogen and phosphorus.

For years, permits have required nutrient removal to achieve localized water quality standards. However, the lack of science-based and achievable water quality standards for the Chesapeake Bay has made it difficult for the states and the agency to regulate nutrient reductions needed to protect the Bay.

The agency has been working with states for several years to develop a basin-wide strategy for these nutrient permit limits. This new strategy covers the entire 64,000-square-mile watershed, and describes how the states and EPA plan to develop permit limits based on the living resource needs of the Bay. States participating in the strategy include Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York and West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

The Chesapeake watershed already has 100 municipal and six industrial facilities treating wastewater with nutrient removal technology to remove excess nitrogen and phosphorus. No other watershed in the country has more treatment facilities using this technology. As the permitting strategy is implemented, the agency and states expect the number of plants using nutrient removal technology would increase to more than 350.

A copy of a document that outlines the permitting approach can be found on EPA's website at: www.epa.gov/reg3wapd/npdes/index.htm.

Arizona water treatment facility fined for failing to maintain chemical risk plan
YUMA, AZ, Dec. 30, 2004 -- Last week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fined the U.S. Department of the Interior $7,500 for failing to maintain its plan that outlines how its water treatment plant in Yuma, Ariz., will respond to accidental chemical releases, as required by the Clean Air Act.

The DOI, according to the EPA Region 9 Office headquarters in San Francisco, has already paid the penalty and corrected the violations.

The DOI's Yuma Desalting Plant, 7301 Calle Agua Salada, failed to maintain records showing that its chlorine gas system was operating properly and that its employees were properly trained in handling any accidental chemical releases.

As part of a new enforcement policy, the EPA offered the DOI a reduced penalty because the agency acted quickly to correct the problems and pay the fine, and the facility presents a relatively low risk to the public.

"It is critical that facilities handling hazardous chemicals keep their plans up-to-date to ensure the safety of area residents," said Keith Takata, director of the EPA's Superfund division for the Pacific Southwest Region. "These plans are available to the public and can be useful for citizens in understanding potential chemical hazards in their communities."

The EPA's regulations require all facilities using hazardous substances above specified threshold quantities to develop chemical risk management plans. The Yuma plant has 4,000 pounds of chlorine on-site, which is almost two times the EPA's threshold quantity.

Chlorine is a toxic, greenish-yellow gas commonly used to purify water. Exposure to low concentrations of chlorine can cause intense coughing and breathing problems. Long-term exposure to chlorine can lead to chronic bronchitis.

The plan must include an assessment of the potential effects of an accidental release, history of accidents over the past five years and employee training. The plan must also include an emergency response program that outlines procedures for informing the public and response agencies, such as the police and fire departments, in the event of an accident.

The Yuma Desalting Plant collects and treats drainage water from farms east of Yuma. The plant uses chlorine gas to kill bacteria that may be present in the water. The treated water is used primarily for agricultural research and development.

For more on the Yuma Desalting Plant, see: www.usbr.gov/lc/yuma/facilities/ydp/yao_ydp.html

EPA approves La. DEQ water permitting program changes
DALLAS, Dec. 29, 2004 -- Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its approval of recent improvements to the Louisiana Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (LPDES) program administered by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), according to the EPA Region 6 Office. This approval completes EPA's review of DEQ's LPDES program.

"I congratulate Louisiana and the DEQ on the hard work to improve the wastewater discharge permitting and enforcement program," EPA Regional Administrator Richard E. Greene said. "EPA is pleased to be Louisiana's partner in finding new and better ways to protect public health and the environment."

In response to concerns about DEQ's implementation of the LPDES program, EPA conducted an independent oversight review to ensure the program was being properly administered. In May 2004, the DEQ successfully completed all seven of the performance measures EPA and DEQ established to improve DEQ's management of its program. A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) solidifying the recommended changes to the LPDES program was signed by EPA and DEQ.

"DEQ is making great strides and this announcement is further evidence of that fact," Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco said. "The people of Louisiana are best served by efficient, effective and accountable regulatory processes. I'm pleased that the state and the federal government are working together to improve our environmental permitting and enforcement process, better protecting our citizens and precious resources."

DEQ Secretary Mike McDaniel said, "EPA's approval makes it clear that DEQ is committed to protecting Louisiana's surface waters through effective administration of our water discharge program. The successful implementation of all performance measures established by EPA and DEQ allows the agency to continue to fulfill our obligation of protecting human health and the environment."

Because DEQ has implemented the recommendations required by EPA for continued authority over the program, EPA has determined that petitions submitted by several environmental groups in 2001 to withdraw DEQ's authority are moot.

EPA authorized Louisiana to implement the LPDES program in lieu of the national program in August 1996. For more information about DEQ's programs, visit www.deq.state.la.us. A copy of the MOA, the notice sent to the Federal Register for publication and a "Crosswalk Between Petition Allegations and Finding and/or Action Taken" are available at www.epa.gov/region6/6xa/lpdes-program.htm. For the Federal Register entry on this topic, see: www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-WATER/2005/January/Day-05/w178.htm.

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