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Final Rule - Cadmium Aquatic Life Criterion Applicable to Oregon Fresh Waters

Summary

EPA has finalized a freshwater acute aquatic life criterion for cadmium in Oregon to protect aquatic life from the effects of exposure to harmful levels of cadmium. EPA has also approved the freshwater copper aquatic life criteria submitted by Oregon that will protect aquatic life from the effects of exposure to harmful levels of copper. Cadmium and copper naturally occur at low levels in surface waters, such as rivers and lakes; however, at higher concentrations they may be toxic to aquatic life.

Final Rule

EPA has finalized a freshwater acute aquatic life criterion for cadmium in Oregon to protect aquatic life from the effects of exposure to harmful levels of cadmium. EPA has also approved the freshwater copper aquatic life criteria submitted by Oregon that will protect aquatic life from the effects of exposure to harmful levels of copper. In 2013, EPA disapproved Oregon’s 2004 adoption of a freshwater cadmium criterion to limit short-term (acute) adverse effects, and freshwater copper criteria to limit acute and long-term (chronic) adverse effects, after determining these criteria did not meet Clean Water Act (CWA) requirements to protect aquatic life in the state. The CWA directs EPA to promptly propose water quality standards that meet CWA requirements if a state does not adopt standards addressing an EPA disapproval.

Oregon submitted revised acute and chronic aquatic life criteria for freshwater copper to EPA on November 14, 2016, which EPA approved on January 9, 2017. Oregon did not adopt a revised acute cadmium criterion; therefore, EPA finalized the freshwater acute cadmium criterion via this rule in accordance with the CWA.  A consent decree between EPA and Northwest Environmental Advocates (NWEA) required EPA to sign this final rule by January 16, 2017.

Proposed Rule

EPA proposes to establish federal Clean Water Act (CWA) aquatic life criteria for freshwaters under the state of Oregon’s jurisdiction, to protect aquatic life from the effects of exposure to harmful levels of cadmium and copper. In 2013, EPA determined that the freshwater cadmium criterion to limit acute adverse effects and the freshwater copper criteria to limit acute and chronic adverse effects that Oregon adopted in 2004 did not meet CWA requirements to protect aquatic life in the state. The CWA directs EPA to promptly propose water quality standards (WQS) that meet CWA requirements if a state does not adopt standards addressing EPA's disapproval.

Oregon is currently engaging in its own rulemaking process to develop copper criteria that protect freshwater aquatic life, and has gone to great lengths to consider the input of EPA and other technical experts. However, the state has not yet adopted and submitted revised freshwater acute cadmium or acute and chronic copper criteria to EPA. Therefore, EPA proposes to establish federal freshwater acute cadmium and acute and chronic copper criteria that take into account the best available science, EPA policies, guidance and legal requirements, to protect aquatic life uses in Oregon.   


Public Hearings

EPA held two virtual public hearings so that interested parties may provide oral comments on EPA’s proposed rule.  See the following for more information.


Comments on the Proposal

EPA accepted comments on the proposed rule at regulations.gov (Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2016-0012). The 45-day comment period closed on June 2, 2016. 

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