AMSA, DC water agency file joint brief in key clean water case

The Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies (AMSA) and member agency the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (DC WASA) filed a joint amicus brief Thursday in the D.C. Circuit Court case, Friends of the Earth (FoE) v. EPA, in which citizen groups assert that total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) - discharge limits developed under the Clean Water Act - must be expressed in 24-hour daily load form.


Jan. 16, 2003 -- The Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies (AMSA) and member agency the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (DC WASA) filed a joint amicus brief Thursday in the D.C. Circuit Court case, Friends of the Earth (FoE) v. EPA, in which citizen groups assert that total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) - discharge limits developed under the Clean Water Act - must be expressed in 24-hour daily load form.

Simply stated, a ruling in favor of FoE would have adverse implications, most notably precluding the implementation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) combined sewer overflow (CSO) policy - a plan designed to improve water quality nationwide.

AMSA's brief highlights the fact that under EPA regulations, TMDLs may be expressed in any form appropriate to the pollutant of concern - including in monthly, seasonal, or annual loads and points out that FoE's contention that TMDLs must be expressed in the form of a 24-hour load is in direct conflict with Clean Water Act provisions incorporating EPA's 1994 CSO Control Policy.

FoE's assertion could effectively undermine CSO control planning across the country. For example, DC WASA's long term CSO control plan, which will reduce the average volume of CSO discharges to the Anacostia River by a staggering 97.5 percent, would be a casualty of a pro-FoE ruling.

WASA has already demonstrated its commitment to curbing overflows by investing millions of dollars in the development of its control plan and having committed to an estimated capital cost of $1.265 billion in 2001 dollars.

Ken Kirk, AMSA's Executive Director, states that "as our brief points out, TMDLs expressed as 24-hour loads would require complete separation of the District's combined sewer system, which is neither economically nor technically feasible and would in fact provide less water quality benefit to the Anacostia River. FoE's position also could disrupt the efforts of the nearly 800 cities nationwide to comply with the Clean Water Act's CSO provisions. Why would a citizens group seek to litigate a case that will only serve to slow environmental progress and negatively impact citizens?"

A 2002 AMSA survey, which drew responses from 47 of the Association's 81 CSO member communities, revealed that these cities collectively have already spent $5.1 billion in capital dollars and $39.6 million for operation and maintenance costs toward the implementation of their long-term CSO control plans.

Municipalities are committing the needed funds toward limiting overflows already and lawsuits that serve only to delay this process run counter to the interest of Americans.

If the Court were to accept FoE's arguments, the ramifications would extend far beyond the District of Columbia, and could undermine both an important water quality program being administered by EPA, Regions, and states and the significant efforts of communities nationwide to implement key components of the Clean Water Act - an odd outcome indeed for a suit brought on behalf of the nation's citizens. AMSA's brief is available to download in PDF format at http://www.amsa-cleanwater.org/temp/01-16-03WASA_Amicus_Brief_v3.pdf.

AMSA is a national trade association representing hundreds of the nation(s publicly owned wastewater utilities. AMSA members serve the majority of the sewered population in the United States and collectively treat and reclaim over 18 billion gallons of wastewater every day. AMSA members are environmental practitioners dedicated to protecting and improving the nation(s waters and public health.

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