SAB Says EPA Nutrient Criteria Guidance Is Inadequate, Not DefensibleBy Inside EPA
The criticisms come as EPA is moving forward in Florida to develop numeric nutrient criteria in response to an activist lawsuit and as environmentalists are pushing the agency to craft numeric criteria elsewhere, arguing that risk-based, quantitative numeric criteria are more easily enforceable than the narrative criteria most states use for nutrients.
Under the Clean Water Act, states and other regulators use water quality criteria to set enforceable water quality standards that are used to set discharge permit limits. Nutrients, which stem from fertilizer runoff, power plant emissions and discharges from point sources, are responsible for eutrophication — a process that results in reduced oxygen levels in waters, such as the hypoxic “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico and other large watersheds.
But in a draft report released for comment Nov. 19, SAB pans the agency’s nutrient guidance, saying it only “provides a primer on a limited set of statistical methods that could be used in deriving nutrient criteria based on stressor-response relationships” and “in its present form, . . . does not present a complete or balanced view of using the statistical methods to develop criteria.”
The SAB review stems from concerns about the approach three Pennsylvania communities raised last year where Region III was using it to develop stringent phosphorus stream standards. In an Aug. 21, 2008, request for a peer review, the communities say the approach would “result in billions of dollars in additional