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Open for Public Comment: EPA 2018 Aluminum Aquatic Life Criteria Implementation

Posted By Johanna M. Bell, Friday, August 2, 2019

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released their Draft Technical Support Document: Implementing the 2018 Recommended Aquatic Life Water Quality Criteria for Aluminum, for public comment. This document supports state and tribal adoption and implementation of the recently published EPA national recommended Final Aquatic Life Ambient Water Quality Criteria for Aluminum. Consistent with the latest scientific information, the national recommended acute and chronic aquatic life criteria for aluminum in freshwater are intended to be derived on a site-specific basis, using a calculator or look-up tables, and data inputs for pH, total hardness and dissolved organic carbon (DOC).

The draft technical support document provides answers to implementation questions previously identified by states, authorized tribes and other stakeholders. It includes information related to criteria adoption, assessment and impaired waters listing, and NPDES permitting processes related to the new aluminum criteria. This is among the first calculator-based aquatic life criteria that the EPA has published, and the Agency anticipates that this technical support document will be beneficial to states and authorized tribes.

Public comments are due Friday, September 13, 2019 and can be emailed to:

Please contact Johanna Bell ( if you have any comments on this Draft Technical Support Document on how to implement the aquatic water quality criteria (AWQC), or reach out directly to Emily Remmel at


Aluminum naturally occurs in surface waters, but under certain environmental conditions, it can be converted to toxic forms that can be toxic to aquatic life. Anthropogenic sources, such as alum (potassium aluminum sulfate) used in clarification processes in drinking water or wastewater processes to remove phosphorus, can contribute to levels of aluminum in surface waters. Lastly, certain activities, such as wastewater discharges, stormwater runoff, mining, or agriculture can influence a waterbody's pH, dissolved organic carbon (DOC), or total hardness and, therefore, the toxicity of aluminum in that waterbody.

Entities such as industrial facilities, stormwater management districts, or publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) that discharge pollutants to fresh waters of the United States under the State of Idaho's jurisdiction could be indirectly affected by the 2018 aluminum criteria and draft guidance.  Final, EPA-adopted water quality standards for Idaho, are the minimum standards required under the Clean Water Act for use in regulatory programs, such as Idaho Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (IPDES) permitting and identifying impaired waters under CWA section 303(d).

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