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EPA Issues First Discharge Permits in Idaho Since State's Development of TMDL's

Release Date: 3/16/1999
Contact Information: Kathleen Collins
(206) 553-2108

March, 16, 1999 - - - - - - - - - - 99-13


New permits have been issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the Moscow, Idaho, municipal wastewater treatment plant and the aquaculture laboratory at the University of Idaho, it was announced today by Robert R. Robichaud, manager of the wastewater permit unit at EPA’s Northwest regional headquarters in Seattle.

The permits set new limits on the effluent released to Paradise Creek by Moscow and the University of Idaho. The permits are the first issued by EPA since the state developed a plan for implementing pollution restrictions in Idaho’s impaired waters. These restrictions, called Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL), are the centerpiece of the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality’s efforts to bring state waters into compliance with the federal Clean Water Act, which is administered by EPA.

When EPA published the draft permits last fall, city officials and members of the community expressed concern about meeting the limits in the Moscow permit. The Moscow permit places limits on the effluent from the wastewater treatment plant for phosphorus, temperature, ammonia, suspended solids and a number of other parameters.

Robichaud singled out phosphorus and temperature as the most detrimental to aquatic life in Paradise Creek.

"If the operators of the Moscow municipal wastewater treatment plant achieve the phosphorus limits set by the permit, their success -- when combined with reductions of phosphorus expected in the runoff from agricultural activities in the Paradise Creek watershed -- will go a long way toward restoring the water quality of Paradise Creek," Robichaud declared.

The Clean Water Act required the state to develop a TMDL management plan because the Paradise Creek waterbody is damaged and not meeting the state’s water quality standards.

Based on information available at the time, the state determined the total amount of pollution Paradise Creek could assimilate and still remain a healthy waterbody. The TMDL then divided the total loading among the Moscow wastewater treatment plant, the University of Idaho laboratory and nonpoint sources.

The permit is required to implement the requirements established in the TMDL. Anything more than what is allowed by the TMDL would cause a violation of the state’s water quality standards.

"If new information were to emerge which showed that the total loading to Paradise Creek could be increased and still protect the designated uses, the TMDL could be modified," Rolbichaud said. "If that were to occur, the permit could be changed to reflect the modified TMDL."

The TMDL also imposed phosphorus and temperature requirements for the University of Idaho effluent. Both EPA and the facility anticipate that the University discharge will be able to meet these limits.