Water Agencies Object to EPA Tactics in Reviewing Washington Human Health Water Quality Criteria

Published May 19, 2015
Water Quality

In a May 13 letter to EPA Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) expressed concerns over EPA’s “increasingly coercive approach” in reviewing the State of Washington’s proposed human health water quality standards under the Clean Water Act. NACWA represents the interests of more than 280 public wastewater treatment agencies across the United States, including 10 in Washington.  NACWA objected to EPA’s comment letter on Washington’s proposed rule because it “suggests that Washington has no other choice” but to adhere to EPA’s evolving policy preferences, ignoring the fact that Washington’s proposal is consistent with the range of values and approaches included in existing federal guidance.

In Washington’s draft rule, the Department of Ecology and Governor Jay Inslee have made important policy decisions based on long-standing scientific and public health policy on risk management. NACWA’s letter warns that EPA is overstepping its authority by substituting its current policy preferences over legitimate state policy choices that are consistent with Clean Water Act requirements.  Under the Act, states have the responsibility for developing water quality standards, and a range of acceptable options exist for state policy and risk decisions.

EPA’s so-called “formal objection” to Washington’s proposed rule ignores established federal policy and requirements and fails to identify any scientific shortcomings, “choosing instead to roundly condemn the entire approach” followed by the state.  NACWA urged EPA to allow Washington to exercise its Clean Water Act responsibilities without “undue influence” from the federal agency, pointing out that EPA should instead focus on its own authority to disapprove state standards or promulgate federal standards – and be prepared to defend those actions in federal court.  For more information about this issue, contact James Tupper at tupper@tmw-law.com.

  • To read the NACWA letter, click here.