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Cheryl Niemi Washington Department of Ecology Spokane River Forum March 27, 2013

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Washington’s Surface Water Quality Standards rule-makings: human health-based criteria and implementation tools. Cheryl Niemi Washington Department of Ecology Spokane River Forum March 27, 2013. Two concurrent Surface Water Quality Standards (WQS) rule revisions.

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Washington’s Surface Water Quality Standards rule-makings: human health-based criteria and implementation tools

Cheryl Niemi

Washington Department of Ecology

Spokane River Forum

March 27, 2013

two concurrent surface water quality standards wqs rule revisions
Two concurrent Surface Water Quality Standards (WQS) rule revisions
  • Human health-based criteria (HHC) adoption
  • Revised implementation tools – focused on variances, compliance schedules, and (likely) intake credits

Status and current timeline of the rule-makings:

  • At the CR-101 stage now: “intent to develop a rule”
  • CR-102 - Fall/winter 2013 - draft rule language with APA-required draft Cost/Benefit Analysis, Small Business Economic Impact Statement, etc.. –
  • 180-day public review of draft rule
  • CR-103 - final rule adoption - 2014
rule making process where we are now
Rule-making Process – where we are now

CR-101 Stage – three main venues for participation

  • Policy Forums – public workshops to provide education, share perspectives, and prepare for discussion and evaluation of draft rule language
    • Examine discharge scenarios under current rules and then modify scenarios based on hypothetical changes to specific inputs to the criteria equations, possible modifications to analytical techniques, changes in 303(d) listing status, etc…
  • Delegates Table- Meetings of representatives from different stakeholder groups to share concerns, perspectives and ideas, and to discuss policy issues. Not a decision-making body.
  • Meetings – available to meet with groups if desired
why is ecology doing these rule makings now
Why is Ecology doing these rule-makings now?

Implementation Tools: Current and future needs for tools that will help facilitate source controls and compliance for dischargers where meeting standards will take a long time – up to many decades. Current implementation tools are limited to 5 and 10 year timeframes.

This includes both toxics and conventional pollutants (e.g., temperature).

Human health-based criteria:WA is currently under 1992 federal rule for HHC: The National Toxics Rule (NTR; 40 CFR 131.36).

The older NTR criteria should be updated to include consideration of:

  • New toxicity factors: cancer and non-cancer
  • Criteria for additional chemicals added to EPA’s recommended criteria list since 1992
  • New regional information on fish and shellfish consumption

This will be the first time these criteria have been adopted into the WA WQS.

2010 Triennial Review of the WQS ranked HHC adoption and implementation tools revisions as a high priority – targeted to start rule-making in 2012.

Triennial Review web site:

situation some pollution reduction situations will take longer than 10 years to meet standards
Situation: Some pollution reduction situations will take longer than 10 years to meet standards





Pollutant concentrations decreasing over time

Increasing pollution

0 yrs


10 yrs

WQ criteria – risk based or NC

wqs are composed of three main parts
WQS are composed of three main parts

Human health criteria rule-making

Implementation Tools Rule-making

what uses do hhc protect
What uses do HHC protect?
  • The “fishable/swimmable” goal of the CWA
  • The drinking water designated use
epa s recommended criteria
EPA’s Recommended Criteria

EPA’s recommended criteria are for states to use as needed. They are developed for nation-wide use.

EPA uses default exposure assumptionsthat are based on national data in its recommended HHC:

  • A drinking water intake of 2 liters per day;
  • An average body weight of 70 kg;
  • A fish/shellfish intake rate of 17.5 g/day
washington s current hhc are in federal r ule
Washington’s current HHCare in federal rule

1992 National Toxics Rule

Currently contains criteria for 85 chemicals

Criteria are based on the national default assumptions used in early 1990’s:

NTR found at 40 CFR Part 131

national toxics rule
National Toxics Rule

A little over half the 85 chemicals are carcinogens (e.g. DDT and PAHs). The rest are non-carcinogens.

NTR includes a risk level for carcinogens of one-in-one million (Washington’s WQS language includes this risk level).

how are current ntr hhc used in regulating sources of pollution
How are current NTR HHC used in regulating sources of pollution?

Identifying impaired waterbodies under CWA Section 303(d)

Targets in Water Clean-up Plans(Total Maximum Daily Loads)

NPDES permit limits

some of the big policy risk management decisions
Some of the big policy/risk management decisions:

Clarification of the risk level in the WQS?

Fish consumption rate or rates

  • Geographic break?
  • Anadromous fish?
  • Additional data needs?

How to address sources of toxics outside the scope of the CWA – and how does this affect the criteria equation inputs?

Adopt criteria for all new EPA recommended chemicals?

Any state-specific criteria?

science science policy and risk management
Science, science policy, and risk management

Risk Management example from EPA (2000):

“Risk management is the process of selecting the most appropriate guidance or regulatory actions by integrating the results of risk assessment with engineering data and with social, economic, and political concerns to reach a decision. In this (EPA 2000) methodology, the choice of a default fish consumption rate which is protective of 90 percent of the general population is a risk management decision. The choice of an acceptable cancer risk by a State or Tribe is a risk management decision.”

(from: USEPA. 2000. Methodology for Deriving Ambient Water Quality Criteria for the Protection of Human Health (2000), EPA-822-B-00-004, page 2-3)

law regulation policy and guidance
Law, regulation, policy, and guidance

Set requirements and boundaries.

All these can carry different weight when making regulatory decisions.

Will need to clearly articulate the choices and directions guided by these factors, as well as be clear about the policy, science policy, and risk management decisions inherent in HHC development.

Focus on transparency in communication and decision-making.

what we have now and ahead of us
What we have now and ahead of us..

Big and complex process

Address science, science policy, and risk management all within the boundaries and requirements set by law, regulation, policy, and guidance.


Plan to continue work on developing a broad public discussion of the issues surrounding development of the human health criteria and the development of new or revised implementation tools, and the way the contents of these rules could play out in the future.

Scenarios will continue to be important to look at overall impacts to the permitting program.


Agency Contacts

Water Quality Standards Coordinator

Becca Conklin


Water Quality Standards Toxics Technical and Policy Lead

Cheryl Niemi


Additional Resources

Surface Water Quality Standards web page:

Surface Water Quality Standards Rule Revisions:

Water Quality Information, including rule making information: