|Office of Water
Summary of Participants' Comments at the EPA-WEF Experts Workshop on
Implementing the WQ-Based Provisions in the CSO Control Policy
Held on September 24, 1999
The Conference Committee on the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency's FY 1999 Appropriations urged the Agency to develop guidance and
provide financial and technical assistance to States and Regional
Offices to facilitate water quality and designated use reviews for
CSO-receiving waters. EPA held three listening sessions and numerous
conference calls to obtain the perspectives from a broad range of
Federal, State, and local constituencies on impediments to implementing
the water quality-based provisions of the CSO Control Policy and the
actions EPA should take to overcome the impediments.
We prepared a Summary of the Listening Sessions -- Observations
& Recommendations For Guidance And Technical Assistance To
Facilitate Water Quality And Designated Use Reviews For CSO-Receiving
Waters and preliminary guidance materials to facilitate
implementation of the water quality-based provisions of the CSO Control
Policy. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Water
Environment Federation (WEF) co-sponsored an invited experts workshop on
September 24, 1999 to critically review these materials. Workshop
participants included a facilitator and 15 knowledgeable individuals
with a variety of backgrounds and experiences involving CSO control
planning and implementation and water quality standards (Attachment 1
includes the list of participants).
In co-sponsoring the Workshop, the Agency sought and received a wide
range of diverse perspectives on (1) the impediments to implementing the
water quality-based provisions of the CSO Control Policy, including
State review of water quality standards on CSO-receiving waters, and (2)
the actions EPA should take to overcome these impediments. The
facilitator did not ask participants to reach consensus on
recommendations or provide advice as a group. We appreciated the
participants' many valuable suggestions that the Agency will take into
consideration as the Agency prepares appropriate draft guidance for
public review and comment in April, 2000.
Participant comments are summarized below for your information.
These comments are those of Workshop participants; they do not
necessarily represent the Agency's perspective. In addition,
EPA has not evaluated the merits or feasibility of proceeding with
1. WHAT ARE THE IMPEDIMENTS TO IMPLEMENTING THE WATER
QUALITY-BASED PROVISIONS OF THE CSO CONTROL POLICY, INCLUDING STATE
REVIEW OF WATER QUALITY STANDARDS ON CSO-RECEIVING WATERS?
OBSTACLES IMPEDING STATES AND COMMUNITIES
- The Agency maintains an unrealistic presumption that even in urban
areas, all waters can meet the "fishable/swimmable" goals of the Clean
Water Act and requires too rigorous analyses to overcome that
- State resource shortfalls preclude water quality standards reviews
for every CSO receiving water.
- Many communities can not afford the high cost of CSO controls and
are already burdened with increased debt because of the close-out of
the Agency's grant programs.
- CSO communities are not collecting adequate ambient water quality
monitoring data to support a State water quality standards review on
- CSO communities have insufficient resources to collect the
monitoring data and conduct the analyses on which to base use
- States are paralyzed by the fear that any changes to water quality
standards will be viewed unfavorably by the public.
- EPA sends "mixed messages" on whether revisions to uses for
CSO-receiving waters are by exception, or the norm, and if the norm,
the level of demonstration required in a use attainability analysis.
- CSO communities expect that water quality standards will be
revised prior to implementing the long-term control plan. However,
States do not necessarily believe that their water quality goals
should be revised without a demonstration that the CSO controls, when
implemented, alone or in combination with other controls, will
continue to cause or contribute to the impairment of water quality
- A guiding principle of the CSO Control Policy is that States will
review and revise their water quality standards while communities are
developing their long-term control plans. This principle is perceived
by some States as conflicting with the Clean Water Act objective to
restore water quality and with the water quality standards
program regulatory requirements to demonstrate that with the CSO
controls, uses can not be attained.
- Some communities believe that no additional controls are necessary
beyond the the "presumptive approach" (4-6 overflows, 85% capture is
presumed to meet water quality standards), irrespective of the water
quality standards for the CSO-receiving water.
IMPEDIMENTS INHERENT IN EPA'S POLICY/GUIDANCE
- The CSO Control Policy objective -- "to achieve cost-effective CSO
controls that ultimately meet appropriate health and environmental
objectives" - is vague and subject to different
- The CSO Control Policy fails to provide the regulatory certainty
that communities need in developing and financing their long-term
- No Agency guidance clearly integrates the long-term control plan
development and implementation processes with water quality standards
reviews, particularly the use of the long-term control plan data and
analyses as a basis of a use attainability analysis.
- When conducting the widespread economic and social impact analyses
to revise a use, the Agency's economic guidance for the water quality
standards is perceived to preclude consideration of a cost-benefit
analysis. If a community can "afford" additional controls, these
controls must be applied, even if the incremental costs of the
additional controls may far exceed any tangible environmental benefits
of the controls.
- Variances would enable a valid permit to be issued requiring
implementation of some controls. However, this mechanism is not used
because of the high procedural hurdles, e.g., a use attainability
- Guidance is not available on adopting water quality standards and
issuing permits on a watershed basis.
- Without further guidance on the use of the watershed approach, the
Agency will continue to impede its use because of the perception that
communities will use a watershed approach or a future TMDL to delay
any implementation of CSO controls.
- Different time frames and requirements in NPDES program
regulations and policies inhibit the coordination of wet weather
permits on a watershed basis and the analysis and equitable allocation
of load reductions among all sources of contamination.
- Permit limits continue to be developed based on "dry weather"
flows rather than on flows reflective of wet weather flows, e.g.,
continuous simulation, dynamic or episodic event modeling.
- EPA has failed to provide the leadership and guidance necessary to
ensure States revise their standards on CSO-receiving waters.
- EPA has not developed a mechanism to track State reviews of water
quality standards on CSO-receiving waters and hold States accountable
for the reviews.
INSUFFICIENT PUBLIC SUPPORT
- Use of "buzz words," such as the "water quality-based provisions"
of the CSO Control Policy, are not universally understood to mean
water quality standards and lead to misinterpretation and confusion by
public officials and the public.
- Local communities and the public do not understand the
complexities of the water quality standards program processes.
- The public does not support clean water infrastructure funding to
the same extent as they support highway funding.
- The Agency has not fully described the benefits of CSO controls,
including the benefits to downstream communities when overflows are
- Community organizations have not been effectively used as a public
liaison mechanism during the development of CSO long-term control
plans and review of water quality standards.
2. WHAT ACTIONS SHOULD EPA
TAKE TO SUPPORT STATES IN THEIR REVIEW OF WATER QUALITY STANDARDS ON
DEVELOP A STATEMENT OF EPA'S EXPECTATION ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF
THE WATER QUALITY-BASED PROVISIONS OF THE CSO CONTROL
- Develop an advocacy statement for use with local governmental
officials and the public on EPA's expectations for the implementation
of the water quality-base provisions of the CSO Control Policy,
stressing the benefits of CSO controls.
- Prepare an "Expectations Statement" focusing on why communities
need to develop CSO long-term control plans that meet the requirements
of the CWA.
- Clearly state the costs of CSO controls and the benefits of
- Strongly recommend that States review water quality standards on
CSO receiving waters.
- Support States who have revised their water quality standards use
classification systems to account for uncontrollable overflows beyond
the capacity of a well designed and operated systems to control e.g.,
Massachusetts and Maine.
- Hold States accountable for the review their standards on
CSO-receiving waters, recognizing that standards need to be
"corrected" so that they can be attained.
- Develop a problem statement addressing the impracticality for many
communities to attain water quality goals.
IMPROVE THE COORDINATION AND COOPERATION AMONG ALL PARTIES IN THE
CSO CONTROL DEVELOPMENT AND IMPLEMENTATION PROCESSES
- Clarify responsibilities and expectations for State NPDES and
water quality standards authorities, communities, community
constituencies and EPA in ensuring the appropriate individuals
participate in the CSO and water quality standards processes.
- Assure all State and EPA programs (permits, water quality
standards, enforcement) are involved with communities in the
development and implementation of CSO long-term control plans.
- Target EPA intervention in CSO long-term control plan development
and implementation to working with States on an overall approach and
process, and on inter-state and inter-jurisdictional issues.
- Unless there is a pre-existing enforcement action, keep the CSO
coordination under the purview of the permitting authority, making
sure Federal and State water quality standards and permitting
personnel participate, as needed.
- Approach communities as valued clients, trusting their judgment
and providing timely reviews of their drafts and responses to their
- Advocate a greater level of coordination between State and
Regional Offices. Offer to provide technical support if States or
communities need EPA's support before State legislative
- Promote greater involvement of technically capable watershed
organizations in the coordination of CSO long-term control plan
development and implementation processes.
- Actively advocate reducing the litigious atmosphere by involving
third parties in the CSO long-term control plan development and
- Develop a forum for bringing States together to share approaches
for addressing water quality standards during wet weather
EXPAND EPA'S GUIDANCE
- Provide guidance, with case examples, on developing water quality
standards, CSO long-term control plans and permits on a watershed
- Provide guidance and case examples of using the watershed approach
in the planning and implementation of CSO long-term control plan,
along with SSO, storm water and nonpoint source controls.
- Provide examples of mechanisms for community-based organizations
to use in communicating/cooperating on CSO activities on interstate
watersheds rather than having to deal with States,
- Recommend approaches for addressing upstream nonpoint source
loadings that are not controlled through a permit.
- Coordinate the CSO and TMDL processes by making CSO impacted
waters a high TMDL priority.
- Explain how episodic wet weather events can be translated into a
daily load as part of a TMDL and how a wet weather TMDL can be applied
to a permit without wet weather water quality standards.
State Accountability For Water Quality Standards
- Develop a tracking mechanism for State review of water quality
standards on CSO-receiving waters.
- Provide clear processes to carry out water quality standards
reviews with the expectation that if the processes are followed, EPA
will approve the revisions.
- Provide processes, guidance and oversight to "correct" water
quality standards for wet weather events.
- Provide guidance and case examples of State water quality
standards classification systems that address limited/intermittent
exceedances beyond the capacity of well designed and operated systems
Use Attainability Analyses
- Eliminate the need for use attainability analyses or allow less
rigorous analyses when issuing variances, in conjunction with the
phased implementation of obvious CSO projects.
- Develop a pre-packaged/simplified use attainability analysis
framework for revising uses, based on seasonal and event specific
- Provide guidance on the type of use attainability analysis needed
to apply a revised use classification system on a water body-specific
- Identify the appropriate factors to examine when conducting a use
attainability analysis for recreation.
- Provide examples of "tiered use attainability analyses," depending
on steam size, number of overflows, population, etc.
- Provide clear processes that States may follow in revising uses
and allowing limited exceedances of water quality standards.
- Expand the economic guidance to discuss use revisions when there
are no tangible environmental benefits of a community spending to the
limit of what has been determined to be the level that a community can
- Define widespread social impact in the analysis of substantial and
widespread social and economic impact.
Long-Term Control Plan Development and Implementation and Water
Quality Standards Review Processes
- Provide a clear, "plain English" description of the process
linking the CSO control development and implementation processes with
the water quality standards review processes.
- Provide case examples of using the data collected and the analyses
conducted during the CSO control development process for a use
- Provide a status report on CSO community long-term control plan
development and implementation, showing how any remaining overflows
are handled in the water quality standards, permitting, or enforcement
- Clearly state the circumstances under which the "presumptive
approach" may be used as the end point for CSO controls.
- Advocate phasing early implementation of CSO long-term control
plan priority projects, along with monitoring during each phase to
evaluate progress made.
- Evaluate the efficacy of CSO control technologies for bacteria,
nutrients, and toxic pollutants.
- Develop guidance and case examples for use by small communities in
developing their long-term control plans, consistent with water
- Provide examples of innovative, less expensive structural
- Provide examples of which CSO controls do not work, as well as
those which do work.
- Provide guidance for third party citizen participation in data
collection on CSO-receiving waters.
- Provide guidance on developing water quality-based effluent
limits, based on a CSO long-term control plan.
EPA-WEF INVITED EXPERTS WORKSHOP PARTICIPANTS
PAUL FREEDMAN, President
Upper Chattahoochee River Keeper
The Narragansett Bay Commission
U.S. EPA, Region
Merrimack River Watershed Council
GLENN HAAS, Director
Division of Watershed
Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
Chief Deputy Director
Wayne County Department of
Senior Water Policy Advisor
U.S. EPA, Region
Assistant City Engineer
LINDA MURPHY, Director
Office of Ecosystem Protection
Tacoma Park, MD
TIMOTHY P. STRANKO
Morgantown Utility Board
Chief, Water Policy Section
Office of Water
Indiana Dept. of Environmental Management
ALAN H. VICORY, JR., P.E., DEE
Valley Water Sanitation Commission