Editor’s Comments: Keep Talking About the Issues

Nov. 1, 2010

All of us who’ve been watching the evolution over the past couple of years of the EPA’s effluent limitation guidelines for construction sites have had a lot to follow. Formulating a regulation to cover so many different types of sites, and setting a numeric standard, no less, is a daunting and complex task, and it’s probably not reasonable to expect it to be accomplished in one try, or even two. The EPA is currently working on a third iteration of a portion of the ELG, looking again at the numeric limit itself and at the cost-to-comply figures it previously came up with.

The encouraging thing buried in all this, I think, is that the EPA actually does listen to what people are saying-and people have had a great deal to say on the subject. Sometimes the feedback comes during the public comment periods that follow the draft of a new rule; sometimes-more expensively for all involved, but this is often the way the process goes with new regulations-the feedback comes in the form of a petition or lawsuit, which is what prompted this new round of changes. You can read more on the ongoing developments, including the reasons for the legal challenges, in Scott Taylor’s thoughtful guest editorial on page 57 of this issue. The EPA has agreed to issue a new version of the ELG in 2012.

Some brief background: When EPA issued a draft of the proposed ELG in December 2008, it proposed a turbidy limit of 13 nephelometric turbidity units (NTUs) for stormwater discharges from certain construction sites. The response was loud and immediate-some of it in the pages of this magazine, some from the International Erosion Control Association, which submitted comments from some of its members, and probably some from many individual readers as well. In the final rule, issued late in 2009, the numeric limit was 280 NTU for many construction sites.

While we all support clean water goals-why would we be working in this industry otherwise?-many in the industry felt the 280-NTU limit was still an unreachable and unaffordable goal and could even have negative environmental consequences. That’s the reason behind this latest iteration, as Scott’s editorial explains in more detail.

It’s important to keep discussing the issue, even as the EPA continues to work, and much of that ongoing discussion takes place at conferences around the country. Scott Taylor is the chair of the California Stormwater Quality Association and will be giving the keynote address at its annual conference, taking place November 1-3, just as this issue is published. You can be sure the current events surrounding the ELG will be discussed and debated at that conference.

Another conference at which the issue will still be a hot topic is StormCon, which will take place August 21-25, 2011, in Anaheim, CA. This is the tenth year for the conference, and the call for papers is now open. There are two new tracks this year, including one specifically on Erosion and Sediment Control; you can find more information about the conference, including a complete description of all seven conference tracks, and submit an abstract online at www.stormcon.com.

About the Author

Janice Kaspersen

Janice Kaspersen is the former editor of Erosion Control and Stormwater magazines.