EPA Agrees to Set Beach Water Criteria By 2012
LOS ANGELES, California, August 11, 2008 (ENS) – The association representing most of the country’s municipal sewerage agencies says it is satisfied with an settlement reached Friday that ensures its members will be represented as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency develops new criteria for beach water quality.
The head of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies said today he is pleased with the agreement the association reached Friday with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Los Angeles County in litigation over new recreational water quality criteria.
“The number one goal of NACWA member agencies is to provide strong protections for public health and the environment,” said Ken Kirk, NACWA executive director.
“This agreement will help ensure that the best scientific data available is used in developing recreational water quality criteria so that we can continue to responsibly provide those protections,” said Kirk. “We welcome the opportunity to work with EPA and other key stakeholders in this important process.”
The new clean beach water criteria are required by Congress under the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act, commonly called the BEACH Act.
Beach at Santa Cruz, California
(Photo by Carlos Martinez)
The settlement, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, resulted from a lawsuit filed in September 2006 by the Natural Resources Defense Council after the EPA did not meet its 2005 deadline under the BEACH Act for publishing new criteria for recreational water quality.
The settlement requires the EPA to complete the necessary scientific studies to develop new recreational water quality criteria by December 2010 and will publish the criteria in the Federal Register no later than October 2012 – seven years after the original deadline.
EPA has committed to carry out a study that will determine indicators for the new water quality criteria that will be protective of public health and based on sound science.
Under the settlement, the EPA has agreed to conduct studies in a variety of different geographic regions across the country as well as beaches impaired by different forms of water contamination.
The federal agency also has committed to following many of the recommendations and suggested studies outlined in the agency’s Critical Path Science Plan, drafted in August 2007 by a panel of international water quality experts, outlining the key studies necessary to develop new or revised water quality criteria.
The agreement also commits the EPA to validate and publish a rapid test method for the new criteria by October 2012. The rapid test method will be based on indicators selected by the agency during the research period and will be validated through an inter-laboratory study.
Stakeholders will be able to have input during the scientific study period and criteria development process.
The agreement requires EPA to convene at least one stakeholder workshop a year during 2009, 2010, and 2011 to provide an opportunity for people to receive an update on EPA’s efforts and offer input.
Additionally, the agency will convene an experts scientific workshop no later than December 2011 involving both EPA and external scientists to review the data collected during the scientific study period and determine if there are additional studies and data required to develop scientifically valid recreational water criteria.
Kirk says this experts workshop will provide “an important off-ramp” during the criteria development process to ensure that the necessary scientific data needed for meaningful criteria development has been obtained and was a key priority raised by NACWA during the settlement negotiations.