NGWA publishes guidance on tracking pollution via groundwater

June 9, 2023
The association’s new white paper provides guidance on tracking point source pollution that is conveyed through groundwater to surface water.

The National Groundwater Association (NGWA) has published a new white paper focused on tracking point source pollution that is conveyed through groundwater to surface water.

The paper, “Evaluating Groundwater Conveyance of Point Source Pollution to a Navigable Water as Functionally Equivalent to Direct Discharge,” has been made free to the public to encourage a better understanding of the process in which contaminants may travel through groundwater.

The idea for the paper originated after the U.S. 2020 Supreme Court opinion was released in the County of Maui V. Hawaii Wildlife Fund case. The case examined whether the Clean Water Act requires a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit when pollutants are conveyed from a point source to water that is protected by the federal government under the Clean Water Act. The Supreme Court decided that an NPDES permit is required if the groundwater conveyance of pollutants to surface water is a “functional equivalence” of a direct discharge of pollution.

“The Supreme Court’s decision changed the way states, companies, and regulators may view the connection of point sources to surface water through groundwater,” said NGWA Science and Technology Director Bill Alley, Ph.D. “It’s our hope that this paper can provide some practical guidance on addressing this connection, which will allow everyone to make more scientifically informed decisions.”

The paper, which is now available, was developed along with the Groundwater Protection Council and a diverse group of groundwater scientists, engineers, and contractors.

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