We've made some changes to EPA.gov. If the information you are looking for is not here, you may be able to find it on the EPA Web Archive or the January 19, 2017 Web Snapshot.

Promulgation of Certain Federal Water Quality Standards Applicable to Maine

Summary

EPA has issued final federal Clean Water Act water quality standards (WQS) that apply to water bodies under the state of Maine’s jurisdiction. First, EPA has finalized human health criteria (HHC) to protect the sustenance fishing designated use in waters in Indian lands and in waters subject to sustenance fishing rights under the Maine Implementing Act (MIA). EPA has finalized six additional WQS for waters in Indian lands in Maine, two WQS for all waters in Maine including waters in Indian lands, and one WQS for waters in Maine outside of Indian lands. These WQS consider the best available science, including local and regional information, as well as applicable EPA policies, guidance, and legal requirements, to protect human health and aquatic life.

Final Rule

EPA has finalized HHC for 96 pollutants that apply to waters in Indian lands and six additional WQS for waters in Indian lands:

  • Recreational and shellfishing bacteria criteria to protect human health
  • Tidal temperature, pH, and ammonia criteria to protect aquatic life;
  • A mixing zone policy; and
  • Clarification that natural conditions provisions cannot be applied to HHC.

EPA has finalized two WQS for all waters in Maine including waters in Indian lands:

  • Dissolved oxygen criteria for Class A waters to protect aquatic life; and
  • Clarification that the Clean Water Act does not allow the commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to waive compliance with WQS in case of oil spills.

Finally, EPA has finalized one WQS (phenol criteria to protect human health) for waters in Maine outside of Indian lands.

These final WQS address various disapprovals of Maine’s standards that EPA issued in February, March, and June 2015, and address the EPA Administrator’s determination in the preamble to EPA’s April 20, 2016 proposed rule that Maine’s human health criteria are not adequate to protect the designated use of sustenance fishing for certain waters. 

A critical goal of EPA's final rule is to protect the ability of the Indian tribes in Maine to safely consume fish for their own sustenance. State and federal settlement acts that established a land base for the four federally-recognized tribes in Maine provide that the tribes can fish for sustenance in waters in and around those lands. Maine’s human health water quality criteria are based on a fish consumption rate of 32.4 grams per day of fish. The best currently available information indicates that the fish consumption rate used to derive human health criteria to protect tribal sustenance fishers in Maine should be much higher than 32.4 g/day. Therefore, EPA has finalized federal human health criteria applicable to waters in Indian lands and waters outside of Indian lands that are subject to sustenance fishing rights, incorporating a fish consumption rate that represents a level of fish consumption by the tribes unsuppressed by pollution concerns as well as new data and scientific information on exposure and pollutant toxicity.

Proposed Rule

In April 2016, EPA proposed and invited comment on federal Clean Water Act (CWA) water quality standards (WQS) that would apply to certain waters under the state of Maine’s jurisdiction, including human health criteria (HHC) to protect the sustenance fishing designated use in waters in Indian lands and in waters subject to sustenance fishing rights under the Maine Implementing Act (MIA). EPA proposed these WQS to address various disapprovals of Maine’s standards that EPA issued in February, March, and June 2015, and to address an Administrator’s determination that Maine’s HHC are not adequate to protect the designated use of sustenance fishing for certain waters. 

EPA provided a 60-day public comment period after the proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on April 20, 2016.

Public Hearings

EPA offered two virtual public hearings so that interested parties could provide oral comments on EPA’s proposed rule.  You may view the recordings of the hearings below.

You may need Adobe Reader to view files on this page. See EPA’s About PDF page to learn more.