EPA releases tools to address nutrient pollution

Aug. 13, 2021
In a recent announcement, the EPA shared its new nutrient criteria document, technical support document and ArcGIS CyanoHAB StoryMap.

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released three new resources to help the agency’s partners address adverse effects of nutrient pollution, including freshwater harmful algal blooms (HAB).

The three resources include the agency’s Final Recommended Nutrient Criteria for Lakes and Reservoirs, a web-based tool with information and tracking of HABs, and a Technical Support Document to aid implementation of certain HABs criteria.

Nutrient Criteria for Lakes and Reservoirs

EPA published revised recommended ambient water quality criteria under the Clean Water Act to help address nutrient pollution in lakes and reservoirs. As the first update to EPA’s nutrient criteria in 20 years, these recommendations represent a significant advancement in the scientific understanding of the impacts of nitrogen and phosphorus in our waters.

The new recommendations are based on statistical stressor-response relationships developed from data collected in approximately 1,800 lakes nationwide and incorporated into national models. The national models are designed so that states, territories, and authorized Tribes can incorporate local data into the models to account for unique local conditions. The agency will also be able to help partners use new models through its Nutrient Scientific Technical Exchange Partnership & Support (N-STEPS) program.

States, territories and authorized Tribes can consider adopting the recommended criteria into their water quality standards, but are not compelled to revise existing EPA-approved criteria or total maximum daily load (TMDL) targets.

Tracking CyanoHABs StoryMap

EPA also published a new ArcGIS StoryMap that will allow the public to learn about and track reported cyanobacterial HABs (cyanoHABs) in freshwaters across the country.

There is scientific consensus that the incidence of cyanoHABs has increased in the nation's freshwater systems in recent years, in part due to climate change.

EPA’s Tracking CyanoHABs story map creates a single online resource for information about cyanoHAB events across the U.S. It consolidates freshwater advisory and closure information from state environmental and health agencies into user-friendly, interactive maps.

In addition, the story map includes links to information on freshwater HABs causes and effects; several EPA tools on HABs preparedness and response; and state and local HAB resources such as the laboratories that perform analysis of water samples for cyanotoxins.

Support for EPA’s Recreational HABs Criteria

To help states, territories and authorized Tribes protect swimmers from two cyanobacterial toxins (cyanotoxins) produced by cyanoHABs, EPA has also published its Final Technical Support Document: Implementing the 2019 Recommended Recreational Water Quality Criteria or Swimming Advisories for Microcystins and Cylindrospermopsin.

This document explains how states, territories, and authorized Tribes may adopt EPA’s 2019 recommended criteria for the two cyanotoxins into their water quality standards or use the criteria in swimming advisory programs.

The document also addresses implementation of the 2019 criteria recommendations through other Clean Water Act programs including identifying and listing of impaired waters, and TMDL development.

SOURCE: Environmental Protection Agency