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Water: Aquaculture

Effluent Guidelines

Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.

EPA Expands Focus on Nutrient Pollution

EPA-821-F-00-002; February 2000

EPA's Office of Water is focusing new efforts to help reduce nutrient loadings from commercial agricultural and industrial operations nationwide. Among those efforts is a new activity to develop pollutant controls in the form of nationally applicable discharge standards (known as effluent limitations guidelines and standards) for commercial and public aquaculture operations.


In assessments of surface water quality, states most frequently cite siltation, nutrients, and pathogens as the major cause of water quality impairment. Over the past two years, EPA has directed resources of the Office of Water's Engineering and Analysis Division to address specific sources of these pollutants. Current activities addressing coal mining (remining operations and certain mine land reclamation activities in the arid west) and the construction and development industry are expected to result in significant reductions of soil and other solids reaching rivers, lakes and streams. Ongoing activities to control nutrients and pathogens from concentrated animal (pork, poultry, beef, and dairy) feeding operations are expected to improve water quality.

In 1974, EPA issued a summary technical document for use as guidance in developing controls for wastewater discharges from fish hatcheries and farms. At that time a decision was made not to issue final national effluent limitations guidelines and standards. Based on the 1997 agricultural census data, the aquaculture industry includes close to 5,000 land based and marine environment facilities. The aquaculture industry has facilities located in every state and territory, and is currently one of several growing segments of U.S. agriculture. Given the current growth of the aquaculture industry, and the inconsistent state regulatory oversight, EPA has decided to examine technologies currently available for the control of pollutants, primarily nutrients, from land based and marine environment aquaculture operations. Although the aquaculture industry is currently subject to the permitting system, there are no national technology based standards for aquaculture. New national standards for aquaculture will assist the 43 states that are delegated by EPA to administer the NPDES (National Permit Discharge Elimination System) permitting program.

Some aquaculture facilities can contribute nutrients to environmentally sensitive areas in estuaries, rivers, lakes, and streams throughout the country. Improvements in wastewater treatment within the aquaculture industry have been employed by some facilities to reduce the nutrient pollutant load. It may be possible for more facilities to employ these technologies to reduce pollutant discharge loadings to surface waters and, in some cases, water quality impairment in portions of the U.S. By examining the cost and performance of pollution control technologies and practices, EPA is committed to developing national effluent limitations guidelines and standards that are consistent with the principles of good environmental stewardship and support the long-term sustainability of the industry.

Throughout this national regulatory effort, EPA will work closely with USDA and other federal agencies, academia, industry trade associations, state and local governments, citizen groups, environmental groups and other stakeholders. EPA's efforts will build on the technical expertise of nationally-recognized leaders, such as members and participants of the Federal Joint Subcommittee on Aquaculture (JSA) and its newly created Aquaculture Effluents Task Force. EPA will regularly provide to the JSA, the industry, and the public, information on its data needs and the status of their efforts throughout the regulatory development period.

For Further Information

Please contact the program manager of this rule for more information.

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