EPA planning new approach to nonpoint-source water pollution

Aug 27, 2010
by DTN

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week released a draft clean water strategy that outlines plans for new rules and other initiatives the agency says will prevent water quality from degrading, bet- ter manage pollution from animal feeding operations, expand coverage of munici- pal storm water permits, and promote green infra- stru structure.

The new proposal reflects, in pa part, the realization that, although the clean water program has traditionally focused on controlling pointsource pollution from industrial plants, some of the most significant factors in water degradation today are agriculture and storm water runoff, the agency said.

The document provided few details, but EPA earlier said it was working on a proposed rule to help reduce the rate of new water quality impairments and increase the rate of water quality improvements. The draft strategy did mention that EPA intends to strengthen its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permitting program to significantly reduce pollution entering U.S. waters. For example, EPA plans a proposed rule to streamline the regulatory authority to designate an animal feeding operation as a concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO.

The agency has struggled with its effort to regulate CAFOs over the years and, in November 2008, issued a final rule requiring CAFO owners and operators who propose to discharge wastewater to apply for a permit.

More recently, EPA settled a lawsuit with environmental advocates by agreeing to issue a new proposed rule to require all CAFOs to submit details to the agency about their operations and to update the information every five years.

The agency also issued guidance May 28 designed to help owners and operators perform assessments of their feedlots and to help authorities determine whether the feedlots comply with EPA rules.

The draft appears to focus much of its attention on developing a baseline from a set of five proposed aquatic resource surveys that EPA says will provide a more complete picture of the condition of all water body types across the nation. The baseline also undoubtedly will form the underpinnings of new clean water regulations at some point in the future. — DTN