Aquatic Life Criteria - Aluminum
What is Aluminum?
Aluminum is a natural element and the most common metal in the earth's crust. It is found in most soils and rocks. Aluminum can enter the water via natural processes, like weathering of rocks.
Aluminum is also released to water by mining, industrial processes using aluminum, and waste water treated with alum, an aluminum compound.
How does Aluminum Affect Aquatic Life?
Aluminum is considered a non-essential metal because fish and other aquatic life don’t need it to function. Elevated levels of aluminum can affect some species ability to regulate ions, like salts, and inhibit respiratory functions, like breathing. Aluminum can accumulate on the surface of a fish’s gill, leading to respiratory dysfunction, and possibly death.
2018 Final Aquatic Life Criteria for Aluminum in Freshwater
EPA has published final updated aquatic life criteria for aluminum in freshwater that reflect the latest science and allow stakeholders to develop criteria reflecting the impacts of local water chemistry on aluminum toxicity to aquatic life.
- Federal Register Notice: Final Aquatic Life Criteria for Aluminum in Freshwater (December 21, 2018)
- Fact Sheet: Final Aquatic Life Ambient Water Quality Criteria for Aluminum (December 2018)
- Document: 2018 Final Aquatic Life Ambient Water Quality Criteria for Aluminum (December 2018)
- Aluminum Criteria Calculator V2.0 (xlsm)
- Aluminum Criteria Calculator R Code and Data V2.0 (zip)
Documents Supporting the Development of the 2018 Final Aquatic Life Criteria for Aluminum in Freshwater
In 2017, EPA released draft Aquatic Life Criteria for Aluminum in Freshwater which can be accessed at Regulation.gov. To view the Draft National Recommended Ambient Water Quality Criteria for Aluminum document, download a copy from the docket (EPA-HQ-OW-2017-0260). The following documents supported the development of the Final criteria. A link to EPA’s responses to public comments on the 2017 draft criteria document is given. Also provided are links to external peer review reports on new toxicity data added to the Multiple Linear Regression (MLR) bioavailability models and the updated MLR update used in the 2018 aluminum criteria development, as well as EPA’s responses to those external peer review comments.
- EPA Response to Public Comments on 2017 Draft Aluminum Ambient Water Quality Criteria (pdf)
- External Peer Review Report on the Chronic Toxicity of Aluminum to the Cladoceran, Ceriodaphnia dubia: Expansion of the Empirical database for Bioavailability Modeling (pdf)
- External Peer Review Report on the Short-term Chronic Toxicity of Aluminum to the Fathead Minnow, Pimephales promelas: Expansion of the Empirical database for Bioavailability Modeling (pdf)
- External Peer Review Report on the Expanded Multiple Linear Regression Bioavailability Model for Aluminum Effects on Aquatic Life (pdf)
Draft Technical Support Document: Implementing the 2018 Recommended Aquatic Life Water Quality Criteria for Aluminum
This draft technical support document, in a question-and answer format, addresses the topics of adopting the criteria into water quality standards, monitoring, waterbody assessment and listing for impairments, and NPDES permitting. This document, released by EPA for 90 days of comment ending on March 9, 2022, is a revision of the draft that EPA released in 2019 and incorporates input provided by the public during the previous comment period. EPA provided this second draft in order to maximize the opportunity for public input and is currently reviewing comments.
- Draft Technical Support Document: Implementing the 2018 Recommended Aquatic Life Water Quality Criteria for Aluminum (pdf)
1988 Aquatic Life Criteria for Aluminum
The 2018 Aquatic Life Criteria for Aluminum supersedes the 1988 criteria. You can view the 1988 criteria on our historical water quality criteria documents page.