National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA)

NACWA files brief in Chesapeake Bay daily load litigation, defends holistic watershed approach

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The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) filed a brief icon-pdf on Friday, April 20 in federal litigation over the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for the Chesapeake Bay. The brief makes a strong case on behalf of using a holistic watershed approach, including nonpoint source agricultural dischargers, in the TMDL to address the Bay’s water quality impairment issues.

In the case, American Farm Bureau Federation, et al. v. U.S. EPA, a collection of agricultural interests argue that EPA has no authority to regulate or assign load allocations to nonpoint agricultural sources as called for under the TMDL program of the Clean Water Act. These efforts by nonpoint sources to walk away from the TMDL process represent a significant threat to a comprehensive watershed approach, which is the only viable way to address the growing issue of nutrient pollution in U.S. waters.  NACWA was granted intervention in the case last October to defend the interests of its municipal clean water utility members and support EPA’s watershed approach in the TMDL.

NACWA’s brief argues that the watershed approach embodied in the TMDL program is both lawful and necessary to restore water quality, and further argues that EPA’s inclusion of both nonpoint source discharges and upstream discharges was legal and appropriate.  The brief highlights the significant investments and achievements municipal clean water utilities have made to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay, particularly with regard to nutrient impairments.  It also argues that additional restrictions on point source dischargers alone, while failing to address the significant nonpoint contributions, would be both inequitable and unable to solve the water quality challenge in question.

“The reality is that municipal clean water utilities have done and will continue to do their fair share to help clean up the Bay,” said Ken Kirk, NACWA’s Executive Director.  “But agricultural discharges are the largest single contributor to water quality impairment in the Chesapeake Bay and in most other watersheds in the United States.  Today’s brief filed by NACWA highlights the importance of including nonpoint agricultural sources in efforts to improve water quality, and NACWA is strongly supportive of EPA’s efforts to hold agricultural discharges to account within the Bay TMDL. ”

According to a NACWA report released March 6, 2012, Controlling Nutrient Loadings to U.S. Waterways: An Urban Perspective, the cost to remove a pound of nitrogen or phosphorus from farm runoff and drainage is typically 4 to 5—and sometimes up to 10 to 20—times less than the cost to remove the same amount from municipal wastewater or stormwater.

NACWA represents the interests of more than 300 public agencies and organizations that have made the pursuit of scientifically based, technically sound and cost effective laws and regulations their objective. NACWA members serve the majority of the sewered population in the United States and collectively treat and reclaim more than 18 billion gallons of wastewater daily.

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