A recent Clean Water Act case in northern Virginia has been capturing attention because it deals with the regulation of stormwater pollution. The case, Virginia Department of Transportation versus Environmental Protection Agency (PDF), is broken down nicely by AWS colleague Jon Devine of the Natural Resources Defense Council on their Switchboard blog:
At its core, the decision said that the Environmental Protection Agency couldn’t use stormwater volume as a proxy for sediment pollution when developing a cleanup target (known in Clean Water Act jargon as a “total maximum daily load” or “TMDL”) for Accotink Creek, a tributary to the Potomac River.
Stormwater volume is a huge problem for the Anacostia River and is intimately tied to excess levels of sediment (another huge problem for the river) so I understand the logic behind EPA's approach:
when EPA looked at what was causing the pollution problem [in Accotink Creek], it found that the sediment load was tied to the volume of stormwater. The agency then developed a sediment target level that it expressed as a stormwater volume, knowing that ultimately managing the sediment problem would require reducing the amount of stormwater pouring into and tearing up Accotink Creek. This approach would also give local officials a measuring stick to evaluate the relative value of different stormwater management techniques, including green infrastructure -- a suite of practices to infiltrate, capture, or otherwise manage stormwater onsite that are being embraced by community leaders nationwide.
I agree with Jon that this is a narrow holding by the court, but it is important to regulate stormwater volume so the issue bears watching.
The whole article is definitely worth a look: Court decision undermines runoff pollution controls, but numerous important protections remain
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