Illinois TMDL Public Hearing Approaching

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On July 9, 2013, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) is hosting a public hearing for the Impaired Waters of Illinois Draft 2014 Integrated Report.  Interested parties can submit verbal comments on the Draft 2014 Integrated Report at the July 9, 2013 meeting.  Written comments must be postmarked or e-mailed by midnight, August 8, 2013.  Information on the public hearing and where to submit written comments may be found at the IEPA’s website.

The IEPA is required under Sections 303(d), 305(b), and 314 of the federal Clean Water Act to assess waters of the state and evaluate compliance with applicable water quality standards and designated uses.  The Clean Water Act also requires each state to review and update the water quality standards every three years.  IEPA, in conjunction with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), identifies and prioritizes those standards to be developed or revised during this three-year period.

Designated uses of state waters include:

  • aesthetic quality;
  • aquatic life;
  • fish consumption;
  • primary contact (e.g., swimming, water skiing);
  • public and food processing;
  • water supplies; and
  • secondary contact (e.g., boating, swimming).

Sources of impairment to Illinois waters include:

  • atmospheric deposition of toxins;
  • agriculture;
  • hydromodification such as channelization;
  • municipal point sources;
  • urban runoff/storm sewers;
  • impacts from hydrostructure flow regulation/modification; and
  • surface mining.

Surface mining can impact Illinois waterbodies through the discharge of mining effluent, which may lower dissolved oxygen and pH and/or increase phosphorus, manganese, iron, and total suspended solids concentrations, resulting in excessive siltation, algal blooms, and fish kills.

The degree of compliance with a designated use in a particular stream segment is determined by analysis of various types of information, including biological, physicochemical, physical habitat, and/or toxicity data.  When sufficient data are available, applicable designated uses in each segment are assessed as Fully Supporting (good), Not Supporting (fair), or Not Supporting (poor).  Waters in which at least one applicable use is not fully supported are called impaired and are discussed in the Integrated Report.

In accordance with Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act, waters that are deemed impaired for specific chemical constituents may have restrictions of additional loadings (i.e., discharges) for those parameters.  In addition, waters identified in accordance with Section 303(d) are subject to the development of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs).  A TMDL is the sum of the allowable amount of a single pollutant that a waterbody can receive from all contributing sources and still meet water quality standards or designated uses.  TMDLs are listed in a site’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit.  If a TMDL is lowered due to a waterbody being designated as impaired, mining companies may incur additional NPDES violations, potentially resulting in costly fines.

Mine operators and NPDES permit holders are encouraged to compare the 303(d) list in the Draft 2014 Integrated Report with the list in the 2012 Integrated Report to ensure that their discharges will not come under tighter scrutiny.  If your watershed does not have an approved TMDL, it is imperative that you understand the TMDL development process as it relates to your discharges.  If it has an approved TMDL, you need to understand how that affects your future discharges during your NPDES permit cycle.

If you have any questions about the 2014 Proposed Integrated Report or how the revised Illinois TMDLs may affect your NPDES discharges, please contact Dana Sincox or John Gefferth with CEC’s St. Louis office at (866) 250-3679.  The Draft 2014 Integrated Report is reviewable at the IEPA’s web site.

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