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Water: Module 5

Basic Course: Key Concepts (Module 5.l)


Module 5. Water Quality Flexibilities

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  • The water quality program includes mechanisms that allow flexibility in addressing local circumstances that may arise.

  • For example, a designated use can be removed/revised if the State/Tribe finds that attaining the use is not feasible. If the use addresses the CWA's 101(a)(2) goal, then the change must be supported by a formal use attainability analysis.

  • Similarly, states/tribes have the flexibility to modify national criteria recommendations in order to adopt site-specific criteria that reflect local conditions in a particular water body.

  • Also, the regulations afford the flexibility to grant a variance that temporarily modifies the State/Tribe's standards in order to allow a particular discharger (or dischargers) to determine what standards are attainable over the long term. The temporary modification usually regards a specific pollutant. Thus, the underlying standards remain in place. To grant such a variance, the State/Tribe must demonstrate that attaining the currently designated use is not feasible in the short term due to one of the six factors listed in 40 CFR 131.10(g).

  • If authorized by the State/Tribal water quality standard or implementing regulations, a discharger can also be allowed a compliance schedule to take the necessary actions to come into compliance with permit limits based on new, revised, or newly interpreted water quality standards. This involves establishing a compliance schedule as part of the discharger's NPDES permit and including interim requirements.

For informational purposes only–Not official statements of EPA policy.

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