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States Applaud EPA Plan to Review Dated Effluent Standards

Review will allow states to reconcile regulatory standards with the new technologies.

The Environmental Protection Agency's preliminary plan for crafting new or revised effluent limitation guidelines indicates that the agency will not be developing any new sector-based discharge limits over the next two years, according to InsideEPA.com. However, the EPA agreed to a request from state regulators to begin reviewing its oldest effluent limitation guidelines for possible revision after 2015. The agency is accepting comment on the preliminary plan until Oct. 7.

“This is really late, and it's sort of a do-nothing plan,” a state source said. At the same time, the source says that EPA's commitment to review some of its oldest effluent limitation guidelines is welcome news because it will allow the EPA to consider new pollution control technologies that have come on the market since the agency first issued its standards--many of which have not been reviewed since they were issued in the 1980s. Such a review would also allow regulators to reconcile regulatory standards with the new technologies.

EPA on Aug. 7 issued its long-awaited effluent limitation guideline plan, whichis required by section 304(m) of the Clean Water Act. Prior to plan's release, the Association of Clean Water Agencies, or ACWA, had urged EPA to prioritize a series of technical changes to help state regulators, and the group also listed its priorities for ongoing and future guidance updates. At the top of that list is revised standards or more specific guidance for the metal finishing industry, which the Association of Clean Water Agencies said is a “very high priority” because of new technology that could remove some toxics from the waste stream.

In a response to the group's comments on the 2010 plan released the same day as the preliminary effluent limitation guidelines plan, EPA says it “plans to review some of the oldest standards for outdated and erroneous standards as part of its 2013 annual review.” It says those reviews will consider current loads reported by industries to determine if the existing rule's technological basis is outdated. Also, the agency plans to consider whether technological advances have changed industry manufacturing processes.

In the newest effluent limitation guidelines plan, EPA specifically asks whether there are “new, innovative pollution control or pollution prevention technologies” in any of the sectors currently subject to guidelines. It also asks for “innovative manufacturing approaches” used to reduce or prevent wastewater discharges.

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