Author Archives: Chris Hornback

Toledo…One Year Later

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This time last year the country was talking all about Toledo, and not in a good way.  The city was forced to shut off municipal water to the almost half a million people it serves due to the presence of toxins resulting from a harmful algal bloom.  While Toledo was an extreme case and other […]

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The Cost of Clean Water

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How much should clean water cost?  Should I have to pay more for my water and sewer bill than I do for cable TV?  What is the true value of having clean and safe rivers, lakes and estuaries?  These are important questions that garner significant and ongoing discussion, but one thing is clear: the cost […]

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Consideration of Affordability and Flexibility: Is EPA Really Committed?

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Earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a memo to its regional offices tentatively outlining a plan to consider how much a community can actually afford when assessing their efforts to meet Clean Water Act obligations. EPA issued the memo, in part, in response to pressure from communities across the United States […]

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EPA Makes the Right Call on Addressing Nutrient Discharges from Clean Water Agencies

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Consistent with NACWA’s recommendations, on December 14, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a strongly worded denial of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) 2007 petition that sought to modify the secondary treatment regulations to include nutrient removal. NRDC wanted one-size-fits-all limits for nitrogen and phosphorus for all 15,000+ public wastewater utilities across the […]

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EPA’s New Recreational Water Quality Criteria and What it Means for Clean Water

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released its 2012 recreational water quality criteria (RWQC), which updates existing criteria in effect since 1986. Although the numeric criteria values remained relatively unchanged, other alterations, including EPA’s recommended 30-day averaging period, will make the criteria more difficult to meet.
Though there was no evidence that EPA’s 1986 criteria […]

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Workshops on Integrated Planning … Coming Soon to a Region Near You

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Although EPA’s recently released Integrated Planning Framework promises additional flexibility for clean water agencies, ensuring that the framework is put to use remains a challenge. Many utilities remain skeptical that the framework can help their agency or are hesitant to draw the attention of regulators. Questions remain over how the framework can be used, the […]

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A Day at the Beach

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Although beach season is officially over for most of the country, the debate over water quality along the Nation’s coastlines continues. Since 1986, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recommended the same level of water quality to protect swimmers from bacteria that may be present in the water. [ … ]

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It’s Time for a New Approach to Financial Capability Assessments

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For the past decade, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has relied on an outdated approach to assessing the financial capability of communities to pay for Clean Water Act investments. Although EPA’s recently released Integrated Planning Framework provides a new way to evaluate and prioritize water-related investments to maximize water-quality improvement for each dollar invested, it relies on EPA’s outdated 1997 guidance on financial capability, Combined Sewer Overflows – Guidance for Financial Capability Assessment and Schedule Development. [ … ]

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Nutrient Limbo … How Low Can You Go?

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“The number is going to be low regardless, so let’s make our best guess and deal with it through implementation.” While most clean water agencies have probably never heard their permit writer utter these exact words, this is the mindset of many regulators. When it comes to dealing with the effects of nutrients, regulators seem to believe that arguing over the exact number, when it is likely to be beyond the limits of technology, is pointless. State water quality criteria managers and permit writers, facing pressure to make progress on nutrients, are struggling to find ways to move forward that are reasonable and scientifically supportable, leading to sometimes contentious battles over what the right number is. [ … ]

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Where the Rubber Meets the Road … Implementing the Integrated Planning Framework

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It’s out! EPA’s final Integrated Municipal Stormwater and Wastewater Planning Approach Framework is now available. The much anticipated, briefly delayed final version of EPA’s Framework was signed June 5 and released to the public on June 12. The final framework, though only slightly changed from the January draft, includes expanded discussions on adaptive management and financial capability, which should provide additional clarity as utilities explore use of the framework.
Work to ensure that EPA’s framework succeeds, however, is just beginning. [ … ]

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