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NACWA, L.A. County, NRDC Reach Key Agreement with EPA on BEACH Act Criteria

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For Immediate Release:  Aug. 11, 2008

Contact:
Nathan Gardner-Andrews, NACWA Counsel, (202) 833-3692

NACWA, L.A. County, NRDC Reach Key Agreement with EPA on BEACH Act Criteria

The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) was pleased with an agreement it reached with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and Los Angeles County in litigation involving the agency’s development of new recreational water quality criteria as required by Congress in the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act.

This settlement will ensure NACWA and its public utility members will have a prominent role in developing new recreational criteria through a robust stakeholder process while also providing EPA with sufficient time to carry out the necessary studies to create scientifically valid standards.  

“The number one goal of NACWA member agencies is to provide strong protections for public health and the environment,” Ken Kirk, NACWA executive director, said.  “This agreement will help ensure that the best scientific data available is used in developing recreational water quality criteria so that we can continue to responsibly provide those protections.  We welcome the opportunity to work with EPA and other key stakeholders in this important process."

This settlement, filed Aug. 8 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, resulted from a lawsuit filed by NRDC in 2006 after EPA did not meet its deadlines under the BEACH Act for publishing recreational water quality criteria.  NACWA intervened in the lawsuit to ensure that the interests of its public agency members would be represented and to ensure that any court-ordered deadline provided EPA with sufficient time to develop new recreational water quality criteria based on valid science.

The settlement will also aid NACWA in ongoing discussions with Congress on the pending reauthorization of the BEACH Act by helping to ensure that any requirements in the legislation for development of rapid testing methods are consistent with the terms agreed to by all parties in the settlement.  NACWA looks forward to working with EPA, NRDC, and others over the coming years to develop new criteria that are protective of public health and the environment and are scientifically sound.  Under the settlement agreement, EPA will complete the necessary scientific studies to develop new recreational water quality criteria by December 2010 and will publish the resulting criteria in the Federal Register no later than October 2012.

EPA has committed to carry out a number of specific studies during the study period, including efforts to determine appropriate indicators for new water quality criteria that will be protective of public health and based on sound science.  Under the terms of the agreement EPA has agreed to conduct studies in a variety of different geographic regions across the country as well as beaches impaired by different forms of water contamination.  The agency has also committed to following many of the recommendations and suggested studies outlined in the agency’s Critical Path Science Plan, drafted in August 2007 by a panel of international water quality experts, outlining the key studies necessary to develop new or revised water quality criteria.  Additionally, the agreement commits EPA to validate and publish a rapid test method for the new or revised criteria by October 2012.  The rapid test method will be based on indicators deemed appropriate by the Agency during the research period and will be validated through an inter-laboratory study.

Another important element of the settlement agreement is the opportunity for stakeholder input during the scientific study period and criteria development process.  The agreement requires EPA to convene at least one stakeholder workshop per year during 2009, 2010, and 2011 to provide an opportunity for interested parties to receive an update on EPA’s efforts and offer input on both the scientific studies and criteria development.

Additionally, the Agency will convene an Experts Scientific Workshop no later than December 2011 involving both EPA and external scientists to review the data collected during the scientific study period and determine if there are additional studies and data required to develop scientifically valid recreational water criteria.  This experts workshop will provide an important “off-ramp” during the criteria development process to ensure that the necessary scientific data needed for meaningful criteria development has been obtained and was a key priority raised by NACWA during the settlement negotiations.

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NACWA represents the interests of more than 300 public agencies and organizations that have made the pursuit of scientifically based, technically sound and cost effective laws and regulations their objective. NACWA members serve the majority of the sewered population in the United States and collectively treat and reclaim more than 18 billion gallons of wastewater daily.

 
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