Another Chance to Comment on Construction-Site Effluent Limits
For the last few years, EPA has been refining its effluent guidelines for discharge from construction sites. The agency is now asking for more information and input on certain aspects of the rule, particularly relating to technology and sampling. The deadline to respond is March 5.
The timing of this latest request for information fits well with the International Erosion Control Association’s annual conference, EC12 in Las Vegas, which takes place February 26–29. I’m sure there will be plenty of discussion on this topic at the conference, and IECA members have provided many detailed comments on previous iterations of the rule.
As many of you are well aware, late in 2009, EPA published effluent limitation guidelines setting a limit of 280 nephelometric turbidity units (NTUs) on discharge from most construction sites of 10 acres or larger. (This was a change from the 13-NTU limit in a draft of the guidelines issued in 2008; EPA took public comments on the draft into account when formulating the rule issued in 2009.) The guidelines also called for other erosion and sediment control measures, such as using perimeter controls and minimizing the amount of land disturbed at one time, but for many in both the construction and the erosion and sediment control industries, the numeric limit was the key part of the rule; some applauded it, while others felt that a 280-NTU limit was excessively low—lower even than the background turbidity in some regions—and that it would cost too much to achieve.
After the guidelines were issued, the Small Business Administration and the National Association of Home Builders petitioned for EPA to reconsider the numeric limit, based on a potential error in the way that number had been calculated. EPA reexamined its data and proposed, in a notice in the Federal Register in November 2010, to stay the 280-NTU limit until it could be reassessed. The agency formally stayed the limit in January 2011, saying it has miscalculated the data and that a revised limit would be published at a later date.
On January 3, 2012, EPA published a notice in the Federal Register asking for additional data on several issues related to the numeric limit: sample collection, cold-weather considerations, applicability of the limit to certain types of construction, and others. As usual, there is a 60-day public comment period. EPA will be accepting public comments on these issues until March 5.
If you haven’t seen this latest notice in the Federal Register (available at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-01-03/html/2011-33661.htm), you might want to take a look—both to see the current status of the different topics under discussion and to get a brief refresher on the effluent guidelines and how they have evolved. The notice includes information about how the 280-NTU limit was calculated, based on data from eight different construction sites in three states, and why that number is now being reconsidered. It also contains summaries of the technologies needed to meet a specific numeric limit, defines what the agency means by “passive treatment,” includes a discussion of the limitations of sampling equipment and practices, and addresses comments EPA received regarding the potential toxicity of chemicals used in treatment systems to reduce turbidity. The notice also discusses the guidelines’ applicability to small construction sites and certain other types of construction such as electric utility transmission lines. It’s a good summary in about 12 pages.
Many states are waiting on EPA’s final decision to see whether they will incorporate numeric limits into their own construction general permits. This is an important ruling in our industry that will affect many of us for years to come. If you have information or comments, you can submit them online by following the instructions athttp://www.regulations.gov
Author's Bio: Janice Kaspersen is the editor of Erosion Control magazine and Stormwater magazine.