Effluent Guidelines - Selection of New Effluent Guidelines Rulemaking Projects
EPA has selected four industrial categories for which effluent limitations guidelines and standards will be developed. The Agency will develop proposed rules for these categories, and upon promulgation of the rules, the dischargers will be subject to new effluent limitations.
Effluent guidelines are national regulations that set numerical limits for specific pollutants in wastewater from categories of dischargers. The limits are based upon the application of specific process or treatment technologies to control the pollutants in industrial waste streams that are discharged to surface waters and to publicly owned treatment works (POTWs). Although the guidelines are developed based upon particular technologies, dischargers may meet their requirements using whatever combination of treatment technologies and process changes they choose. Since effluent guidelines were first issued in 1974, the Agency has promulgated limitations and standards for 51 categories of industry, agriculture and other facilities.
These categories were selected based upon studies conducted by the Agency which considered the current state of the effluent control and the opportunity for significant environmental gain. The Agency intends to develop guidelines in an expedited manner through implementation of recommendations by the Effluent Guidelines Task Force.
Oil and Gas Extraction - Synthetic Drilling Fluids.
Oil and Gas Extraction is covered by existing effluent guidelines at 40 CFR Part 435. The most recent amendments were promulgated for the Offshore Category in 1993 and the Coastal Subcategory in 1996. This regulatory development project will establish limitations for the use of synthetic-based drilling fluids (SBFs) which are used in lieu of oil-based drilling fluids in certain high performance drilling operations. The reason this project was selected is that SBFs are not adequately addressed by effluent limitations on free oil and toxicity which were developed based on the use of oil and water-based fluids. Improvements in synthetic-based drilling fluids in recent years have reduced their aquatic toxicity, increased their biodegradability, and reduced the volume of mud and cuttings wastes generated. Use of synthetic-based drilling fluids instead of water-based drilling fluids in the geographic areas in which discharge is allowed provides additional environmental protection by reducing aquatic toxicity of discharges and reducing the amount of cuttings on the ocean floor.
EPA intends to issue a proposed rule by December 1998 and take final action by December 2000.
Coal Mining - Remining and Western Subcategories.
Coal Mining activities are covered by existing effluent guidelines at 40 CFR Part 434. These regulations need to be revised to fulfill two specific needs: remining and mining in the arid west.
The existing regulations do not address remining operations, which when appropriately planned and regulated will improve effluent quality and quantity from abandoned mine lands while reclaiming them, and prevent disturbance of previously undisturbed lands. This regulatory project focusses on remining operations nationwide which will expedite permitting and provide a national standard of environmental performance for these activities.
The existing regulations do not differentiate between mining operations in the arid west and other geographic regions. Advances in treatment technologies and Best Management Practices pertinent to coal mines in the arid west show promise of being more protective of water quality than existing standards. Given concerns over the ability of existing regulations to achieve water quality standards established by Native American tribes, EPA intends to explore the development of a new subcategory for mining operations in the arid west.
EPA intends to issue a proposed rule by December 1999 and take final action by December 2001.
Feedlots - Swine and Poultry Subcategories.
Feedlot operations are covered by existing effluent guidelines at 40 CFR Part 412. These regulations, which require the largest confined animal feeding operations to achieve zero discharge of wastes to surface waters except under extreme storm events, have not been sufficient to resolve water quality impairment from feedlot operations. Waste spills and leaks from storage lagoons, runoff of wastes from land application, and the combined effect of allowable waste discharges from smaller facilities have led to a range of environmental and health problems ranging from fish kills and accelerated eutrophication of surface waters to contamination of drinking water and shell fish.
This regulatory project focusses on swine and poultry operations which have been identified as substantial contributors of nutrients in surface waters that have severe anoxia (low levels of dissolved oxygen) and problem algae blooms especially in estuarine waters.
EPA intends to issue a proposed rule for the Swine and Poultry Subcategories by December 1999 and take final action by December 2001.
Future Rulemaking Projects
The Consent Decree requires EPA to begin additional effluent guidelines projects in 1998 and 1999. The Agency has selected one project which will begin no later than December 1998:
Feedlots - Dairy and Beef Cattle Subcategories.
This regulatory project focusses on dairy and beef cattle operations which represent a large segment of the feedlot industry and have been identified as substantial contributors of nutrients in surface waters that have severe anoxia (low levels of dissolved oxygen) and affect drinking water sources in the western and central regions of the United States.
EPA intends to issue a proposed rule for the Dairy and Beef Cattle Subcategories by December 2000 and take final action by December 2002.
Development of Effluent Guidelines - Stakeholder Involvement
EPA's recent effluent guidelines projects have typically taken six to seven years, from start of data collection to promulgation. The Agency intends to develop the new rules on a shorter schedule, and this will require that data and information on industry practices be gathered and analyzed more quickly. EPA will work closely with business and trade associations, state and local governments, citizen groups and other stakeholders, to develop a complete and balanced profile of the industry. The Agency will provide information on the effluent guidelines development process, its data needs and the status of the rulemaking projects at public meetings and other venues. Information on the projects will also be made available on the Internet.
For Further Information
Contact Eric Strassler, U.S. EPA, Office of Water, Engineering and Analysis Division (4303), 401 M Street, SW, Washington, DC 20460. Phone 202-260-7150. E-Mail: email@example.com