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Published on Friday, December 14, 2012

Ecology presenting options on human health criteria in state water quality regulations

On December 10, the Department of Ecology (Ecology) held an informational session on the establishment of human health criteria in state water quality regulations. This is an element of the work that we’ve been tracking relating to setting a new fish consumption rate in the state’s water quality standards. As a reminder, these standards will affect the conditions of municipal wastewater and stormwater permits, and many questions have been raised about the impacts that these decisions will have on these important operations, both in terms of cost and ultimately whether the permits are implementable.

AWC staff Carl Schroeder and City of Everett Surface Water Manager Heather Kibbey are members of what Ecology is calling the “delegates table” – a work group that will attempt to find a way forward on this issue. As part of the education process required for the rule change, this informational presentation was provided to begin to illustrate the policy options available to the state. At least five additional presentations are planned, and we encourage you to sign up on the Ecology ListServ for this process (click here, then click on “Join Our ListServ” on lower-right portion of page) and participate in the meetings via WebEx.

Ecology presented on the scope of state and federal authority around these issues under the Clean Water Act and discussed elements of the human health criteria equation. Ecology also presented their proposals for “discharge scenarios.”

The delegates table will use these scenarios to examine the effects of different policy choices. For example, one scenario is a rather simple setting in a mid-sized city in Western Washington with a municipal treatment plant and several businesses discharging into a water body without a TMDL. Another scenario includes TMDLs and planned expansion of the treatment facility. There are also scenarios designed to illustrate how these new regulations might function in Eastern Washington.

We have asked for, and Ecology will be adding, consideration of completely new wastewater facilities – as new sources are treated differently than existing sources. Please review these scenarios and contact Carl Schroeder if you feel there are other elements that need to be built in.