Nutrients, including nitrogen and phosphorus, are one of the nations’ most difficult and costly water quality challenges. Excess nutrients can result in eutrophication and harmful nutrient related toxic algae blooms have shut down recreation, irrigation, livestock watering, and potable water treatment facilities in at least 20 states in 2016. At least 11 "Harmful Algal Bloom Health Advisories" were issued across the state in 2016 for Idaho waters.
EPA recently published a Federal Register notice for a Proposed National Collection Request for Nutrient Removal for Secondary Municipal Wastewater Treatment Technologies with a comment period that ends November 18, 2016.
EPA is proposing to use Section 308 of the Clean Water Act, usually used for data collection in enforcement cases, to collect two rounds of data from at least 2,500 municipal wastewater facilities nationwide. Under Section 308, response to the data collection request is mandatory, has a 30 day required response, has similar signatory requirements of Discharge Monitoring Reports and NPDES permit Applications, and will address nitrogen and phosphorus influent and effluent data, removal efficiency, and treatment technology.
AIC staff coordinated and submitted comments with interested member Cities. Specifically, it appears as though EPA is seeking to establish a duplicate data collection program.
An alternative approach to the one currently proposed by the EPA is to “mine” the data that already exist in NPDES permits, factsheets, Discharge Monitoring Reports (DMRs), and other sources. AIC staff and some member Cities note that these data are contained in NPDES permits and Fact Sheets, Discharge Monitoring Reports, Nutrient TMDLs, or Nutrient Treatment Technology and Discharge databases or performance data collected by States or regional water quality agencies.
Data sources that could meet these needs include Chesapeake Bay nitrogen and performance data, Wisconsin statewide data for implementation of the 1992 Technology based Phosphorus standard, Montana treatment technology and performance data associated numeric nutrient nitrogen and phosphorus criteria, Long Island Sound technology and nitrogen performance data, Neuse River TMDL treatment technology and performance data, Lake Champlain Phosphorus TMDL treatment technology and performance data, and possibly others.