EPA to Work with City of Springfield to Revise Water Quality Mandates – Lawsuit

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week agreed to work with the City of Springfield on redeveloping Clean Water Act mandates, after agreeing to reconsider the mandates challenged by the City.

The EPA filed a motion “respectfully moving the Court to vacate the agency actions challenged by the Plaintiff” (the City of Springfield), stating they would like to ‘reconsider the challenged TMDLs in light of Plaintiff’s complaint…”.

The City of Springfield filed a lawsuit in September 2011, asserting that the EPA went beyond its authority under the Clean Water Act, when it established rules governing Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) limits of pollutants into Wilson’s, Jordan and Pearson Creeks. TMDL rules are designed to limit the amount of pollutants that flow into a stream. EPA is charged with identifying the pollutant to be controlled.

Instead of identifying and addressing pollutants, EPA issued rules mandating a reduction of the flow of storm water into the three creeks by approximately 40% of an average 2” rain event. City officials said the proposed TMDL limits were unattainable, and asserted this approach exceeded EPA’s authority by failing to identify or address a pollutant.

“The rules would have required the City to spend millions of dollars to reduce the flow of runoff in Springfield and restrict development, without sound and scientific evidence of water quality improvement,” said City Manager Greg Burris. Also, the rules could have actually worsened a pollutant problem.

City Council and the City’s environmental experts believed Springfield had an obligation to other local businesses, and entities, as well as other municipalities, to ensure enacted regulations are fair, attainable and environmentally sound.

In a recent Virginia federal court case, the judge determined the EPA’s attempt to make storm water a pollutant exceeded the agency’s authority under the Clean Water Act. “We believe this was part of the reason EPA determined to withdraw the TMDL following Springfield’s challenge,” Burris said.
Burris hopes City experts canwork together with the EPA to redevelop new TMDLs. Because of that, the City did not opposed the EPA’s court motion, and asked the agency to consider four steps during the TMDL redevelopment process:

1.  An initial briefing with the City of Springfield on EPA’s technical approach to redeveloping the TMDLs.

2.  Access to the data EPA collects and/or will use to support the revised TMDLs at reasonable times during the TMDL redevelopment period.

3.  Quarterly technical conference call updates, at the City’s request, on the TMDL redevelopment status.

4.  A briefing on the pre-publication draft of the TMDLs.

The EPA agreed.

“We felt these were modest steps as part of good inter-governmental coordination and should facilitate the development of regulations that are based on sound science and date and that truly address water quality issues,” Burris said.

The City continues to move ahead with its storm water programs, including work underway by a Citizens’ Stormwater Task Force. The Public Works Stormwater Engineering Division also continues to proceed withinnovative green infrastructure programs, water quality testing and furtherupdates of the City’s storm water infrastructure.