In the Pipeline

EPA's New CALM Guidance Helps Agencies Document Water Quality Data

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is making the Consolidated Assessment and Listing Methodology (CALM) guidance available to help states and other jurisdictions document how they collect and use water quality data and information for environmental decision making.

The primary purposes of the guidance is to help states to determine the extent that all waters are attaining water quality standards, to identify waters that are impaired and to identify waters that can be removed from the impaired waters under list under section 303d of the Clean Water Act because they are attaining standards. The CALM guidance "describes each of the types of data that support water quality decision making and how they are used to support different water quality determinations," according to its introductory section.

CALM does not attempt to reproduce the volumes of existing technical guidance on water quality monitoring, according to the agency. Instead, it builds upon the previous efforts of the State/EPA 305(b) consistency workgroup and presents a framework for integrating old and new guidance documents into a consolidated monitoring, assessment and listing methodology. Wherever possible, this document includes citations (and links to Web pages) to additional references and resources on data quality, data interpretation, monitoring design and other technical issues related to water quality assessments and listing decisions.

This document is formatted as a series of questions that states, territories, interstate commissions and authorized tribes need to answer to document their current methodology. For each of these questions, the document provides some context about why the question is relevant and some examples of appropriate ways to answer it. The examples are drawn primarily from existing guidance and state programs or proposals.

According to the agency, the guidance is evolving and may be revised as more information becomes available.

The document can be accessed at www.epa.gov/owow/monitoring/calm.html.

Cleaning Up the Great Lakes
The U.S. and Canadian governments are making slow progress at restoring and maintaining the chemical and biological integrity of the waters of the Great Lakes basin ecosystem, according to an international organization.

In its Eleventh Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality, released Sept. 12, 2002, the International Joint Commission (IJC) finds that the two countries are not moving at an adequate pace on their pledge to clean up the five Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between Canada and the United States has as its purpose, the restoration and maintenance of the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the waters of the Great Lakes basin ecosystem. Every two years, the IJC assesses progress toward achieving the goals of this agreement.

According to Dennis Schornack, chair of the IJC's U.S. section, "The bilateral commitment to restore the greatness of the Great Lakes remains incomplete. Encouraging progress is being made, but at too slow a pace. Cleaning up contaminated sediments and stopping the invasion of alien species are two top priorities for restoring the chemical and biological integrity of this vast and vital ecosystem."

"The agreement is now 30 years old and even though progress has been made, it has been slow. We see no evidence based on the nature and pace of current activities that restoration will happen within the next generation's life time," said Herb Gray, chair of the IJC's Canadian Section.

The Eleventh Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality makes this case and offers specific recommendations in three major areas.

  • The state of the Great Lakes

  • Is water from the Great Lakes safe to swim in, are the fish safe to eat, is the water safe to drink? The citizens of the Great Lakes basin need to have answers to these questions because these are the three main ways they use the waters. Monitoring the lakes and developing reliable data is important because it indicates whether the programs to maintain and restore the Great Lakes are working. Making this data accessible to the public also is important because all of these issues have implications for human use and ecosystem health.

  • Challenge of contaminated sediment

  • One of the greatest challenges of restoring the Great Lakes is cleaning up the vast amounts of contaminated sediment lying at the bottom of many of the urban harbors, tributary rivers and near shore areas. Without a comprehensive cleanup effort, restoration will not happen within a generation. A convincing body of scientific research shows that toxic substances accumulate in humans who eat certain Great Lakes fish, and that this exposure can cause serious injury to health, IJC officials said.

  • Challenge of invasive species

  • The Great Lakes are under daily threat from invasions of non-native species that can cause egregious harm to the ecosystem and economy of the Great Lakes, even more harm than the infamous zebra mussel or sea lamprey. Action is needed now because the United States and Canada form the gateway to this freshwater ecosystem, and once these species establish themselves, they cannot be eradicated, IJC officials said.

    In its Eleventh Biennial Report, the IJC also offers observations on several issues of concern to the Great Lakes basin. It is the goal of the IJC to sustain dialogue with and between the governments of the United States and Canada in these very important areas and work toward acceptable solutions. These issues include clean up in the Areas of Concern, phosphorus levels in the lakes, dredging, airborne toxic substances, contaminated groundwater, research and development, Lake Superior Binational Program, nuclear issues and unmonitored chemicals.

    IJC is a binational Canada-United States organization established by the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty to assist the governments in preventing disputes related to waters along the Canada-U.S. border. The report can be accessed on the organization's Web site at www.ijc.org.

    Toledo Begins Sewage Improvements After Clean Water Act Settlement
    The city of Toledo, Ohio, agrees to make extensive improvements to its sewage treatment plant and its sewage collection and transportation system under a Clean Water Act settlement filed in federal court, federal officials announced. The improvements are expected to cost at least $433 million over the next 14 years.

    "EPA's agreement with Toledo will improve public health and local waterways by eliminating nearly 800 million gallons of raw sewage overflows annually," said John Peter Suarez, EPA's assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance. "The settlement also ensures cleaner water well into the future through an upgraded wastewater treatment system."

    The settlement, announced Aug. 28, 2002, requires the city of Toledo to end its long-standing practice of discharging raw sewage into Swan Creek and the Maumee and Ottawa Rivers. Government experts concluded that these discharges, of up to a billion gallons a year of untreated sewage, may create unsafe conditions for swimmers and others, as well as causing severe biological problems such as deformities in fish.

    Under the settlement, Toledo will more than double sewage treatment capacity, build a basin to hold excess sewage and improve the sewage collection and treatment system. These activities, to be carried out under federal and state supervision, should eliminate most of the raw sewage discharges from the city's treatment plant and sewers, even during peak flow times. Because of the high cost of this work, the city held a special referendum on July 9, 2002, in which the voters overwhelmingly approved the settlement -- 78 percent voted in favor.

    In addition to the sewer-system repairs, the city will pay a $500,000 penalty and spend at least $1 million to undertake two Consolidated Assessment and Listing Methodology (CALM) environmental improvement projects: restoring and providing public access to wetlands in the Duck Creek basin near the east bank of the Maumee River and cleaning up contaminated properties near the Ottawa River to allow for further business development in an area of newly developed industrial enterprises.

    Norwegian Cruise Line Pleads Guilty To Atlantic Oil Dumping
    In the seventh major case against a cruise line for dumping at sea, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) Ltd. pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a $1 million fine and an additional $500,000 to environmental community service projects in South Florida (United States vs. Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd., S.D. Fla., No. 02-20631, July 31, 2002).

    In its plea, NCL admitted to violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships by misleading the U.S. Coast Guard. For several years, NCL concealed the illegal discharge of oil-contaminated bilge waste into the Atlantic Ocean from the SS Norway and at least one other ship by making false statements in the ships' oil record books.

    Florida Bay Plans to Clear the Waters and Restore Its Ecosystem
    Florida Bay, at the tip of the state's peninsula, was once characterized by crystal-clear water and dense meadows of seagrasses, principally turtle grass. Since the 1980s, however, its water has become increasingly clouded and its turtle grass meadows have been decimated.

    The proposed plan to restore the Florida Everglades ecosystem also seeks to improve certain kinds of habitat in Florida Bay by increasing the flow of fresh water into the bay, thereby countering the increased salinity that has been blamed for killing the turtle grass and clouding the water.

    These expectations, however, may not be fulfilled, according to a report from the National Academies' National Research Council. The evidence linking salinity to turtle grass die-off is debatable, and some calculations call into question the amount of fresh water that will actually reach the bay if the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan is fully implemented. Recent observations also suggest that an influx of fresh water may actually ferry in higher levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, encouraging algal blooms, which cloud water and harm seagrass.

    Because recent evidence suggests that the proposed plan could produce these changes to the marine environment, a focused technical review and evaluation are needed, said the committee that wrote the report. Research also should be performed to reduce uncertainties about the potential long-term effects of CERP on Florida Bay to allow time for alternative strategies to be developed if needed. And more research is needed to pinpoint the factors responsible for killing the seagrasses and clouding the water.

    In 1999, the federal government asked the NRC to advise its South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force on the scientific and technical aspects of restoration plans and activities. Florida Bay is included in CERP because it is intimately linked to the Everglades through a series of canals and waterways, and changes in Everglades water flows and ecology will likely affect the bay as well.

    Expectations that CERP will send more fresh water into eastern Florida Bay may go unrealized, the report notes. According to South Florida Water Management District models, the direct flow of fresh water into the bay is not likely to change markedly by the year 2050, despite restoration efforts. And ironically, efforts to return Florida Bay to a clear and densely vegetated state actually may run counter to its natural conditions, NRC officials stated.

    The report can be accessed at www.nap.edu/catalog/10479.html?onpi_topnews080802.

    San Diego Legislators Plan to Restore Waterways with the San Diego River Conservancy
    On Sept. 13, 2002, Gov. Gray Davis (D) signed legislation that would create the San Diego River Conservancy to manage the public lands along the San Diego River and announced the allocation of $12 million from Proposition 13 and 40 funds to help restore the waterway.

    "We're giving the San Diego River the attention only a local entity knows how to deliver and backing it up with the support only the state can provide," said Gov. Davis. "This action isn't just good for the San Diego River. It's good for San Diego families. It's good for the San Diego economy. And best of all, it's good for our environment."

    AB 2156, by Assembly member Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego), creates the San Diego River Conservancy. The new conservancy, the first in San Diego County, will coordinate state funding for recreation, species restoration, scientific research and educational and cultural activities along the river. It joins seven others in the state that complement local activities to manage public lands.

    The governor also announced that $12 million from Proposition 40 and 13 funds would be provided as seed money for restoration of the San Diego River. Two other river parkways in the area -- the San Dieguito and Otay -- will receive $2 million and $1 million respectively.

    Waterbury, Conn., Settles Environmental Case With $8 Million In Future Sewer Upgrades
    The city of Waterbury, Conn., agreed to undertake $8 million in sewer upgrades and pay a $350,000 penalty in order to settle a complaint about illegal discharges of raw sewage into the Naugatuck River and improper disposal of ozone-depleting chemicals.

    "Resolving this case is an important step forward for clean water in the Naugatuck River," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA's New England Office. "This settlement takes into account both Waterbury's financial situation and the needs of the river and everyone who lives near it."

    The Clean Water Act complaint stems from unauthorized discharges from the city's sewage collection system. On more than 100 occasions in the past eight years, the collection system overflowed into the Mad and Naugatuck Rivers and their tributaries, mostly because of inadequate collection system maintenance by the city, resulting in the overflow of raw sewage through overflowing manholes, broken force mains and pump station bypasses.

    Several of the incidents resulted in millions of gallons of sewage being released, contributing to poor water quality in the Naugatuck River.

    The complaint also alleged that the city improperly disposed of household appliances containing chloroflourocarbons and other ozone-depleting chemicals. The improper disposal allowed the chemicals to escape to the atmosphere, where they contribute to depleting the protective layer of ozone high in the earth's stratosphere.

    Under the settlement, the city will undertake a comprehensive evaluation and upgrade of its sewerage system valued at approximately $8 million. Projects will include expanding the Harpers Ferry Pump Station, implementing already-identified projects to reduce the amount of stormwater and groundwater leaking into the sewer system, investigating portions of the sewerage system that have contributed to overflows in the past, maintaining an increased number of full-time system maintenance staff, enhancing the accessibility of the sewerage system by uncovering buried manholes and maintaining sewerage system right-of ways and implementing comprehensive sewerage system cleaning and preventative maintenance system programs.

    These actions, in conjunction with the city's expenditure of millions of dollars on upgrading aging wastewater treatment plants and removing dams along the river, will continue to significantly improve the quality of the Naugatuck River.

    Waterbury also agreed to implement a program to ensure proper disposal of appliances containing ozone-depleting chemicals. The city will also pay a $350,000 penalty in two installments as part of the settlement.




    This article originally appeared in the November/December 2002 issue of Water & Wastewater Products, Volume 2, Number 6, page 6.

    This article originally appeared in the 11/01/2002 issue of Environmental Protection.

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