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Idaho Pollutant Discharge Elimination System: Opportunity for Input and Collaboration

Posted By Johanna Bell, Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is developing a program to address water pollution by regulating point sources that discharge pollutants to waters of the United States. In 2014, the Idaho Legislature revised Idaho Code to direct DEQ to seek Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authorization for a state-operated pollutant discharge elimination system permitting program. The current program is operated by EPA and called the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program. The state program will be called the Idaho Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (IPDES) program.  Current authorizations provided by the Idaho Legislature can be found in Idaho Statutes Title 39, Chapter 1, Sections 175-A through 175-E.

On August 31, 2016, DEQ submitted to EPA for review a program application petitioning for the authority to become the discharge permitting authority in Idaho.  There are multiple steps toward state primacy and development of a program. Two of these steps include preparation and development of IPDES rules and guidance documents. Currently, DEQ is in the process of developing additional IPDES Effluent Limit Development Guidance (ELDG) and is seeking comments. 

Association of Idaho Cities members are meeting with DEQ and other Idaho stakeholders through Negotiated Rule Making and will submit comments on individual draft guidance sections, and on the final draft guidance by late 2017.  

AIC member comments on Section 1 and 2 of the Draft Guidance were submitted following an October 7th stakeholder meeting. AIC's input to date are that the Draft ELDG needs to address challenges unique to Idaho. Most of Idaho’s communities are small, with limited technical resources and limited funds. Even the monitoring requirements can be challenging and expensive. The guidance is anticipated to help permit writers connect the issues and have monitoring, effluent limits, and compliance frequencies that make sense. Data collection requirements must be directly linked to the permitting regulations, aligned from top to bottom, and be coordinated at the appropriate scales (i.e., state-wide or basin-wide) in order to conserve resources. 

Other data analysis issues raised in AIC member comments for Section 1 and 2 of the Draft Guidance are for DEQ to:

  • include the use of "blank" samples to help determine if lab contamination is present;
  • eliminate all requirements that use lab methods not officially approved by the EPA;
  • include appropriate analytical tools and methods to address missing data, outliers, and samples where the results are below the "minimum level of quantification" (ML) or "method detection limit" (MDL);
  • acknowledge and address situations where a parameter does not have an MDLs or MLs; and
  • include the use of "sufficiently sensitive EPA-approved analytical methods" when quantifying the presence of pollutants in a discharge and for analyses of pollutants or pollutant parameters under a permit.

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