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Since 1998, federally mandated cleanup plans called total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) have been developed for many of West Virginia's polluted streams, rivers, and lakes. In West Virginia and across the country, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has approved almost 4,000 TMDLs. But these plans will achieve success only if the pollutant reductions they call for are implemented.

This paper assesses West Virginia's record in implementing TMDLs. Across the state, 25 TMDL analyses have been completed, covering more than 150 river and stream segments and lakes. Progress made toward implementation is assessed for TMDLs in four pollutant categories: pathogens, acid mine drainage pollutants, toxics, and other pollutants. Because TMDLs were completed in 1998 and each year since, the state has had at most three years to begin implementation. Three observations at this early stage will serve to improve future performance.

Most importantly, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has not publicly committed itself to methodically and fully implementing TMDLs. None of West Virginia's TMDLs include implementation plans, which are crucial for attaining the required pollutant reductions. And DEP's TMDL staff does not include a person solely responsible for overseeing implementation. If TMDL implementation is to be a true goal of the agency, someone must be responsible.

Second, implementing nonpoint source pollutant reductions is crucial for virtually all of West Virginia's TMDLs, because most reductions are assigned to these sources. While agencies increasingly target TMDL watersheds for nonpoint source programs, DEP does not systematically design programs from the start to be sufficient to meet TMDL targets. Also, a lack of coordination with local watershed organizations and local governments means that DEP is not taking advantage of new partnerships and funding sources for implementing nonpoint source reductions, especially for acid mine drainage, West Virginia's most pervasive water quality problem.

Third, it is too soon to judge DEP's record in implementing point source reductions because the vast majority stem from TMDLs completed in 2001; these reductions are scheduled for implementation starting in 2002. Of the two permits targeted for reductions in 1998, one has been modified as required and the other is still not in complete accordance with its TMDL.

Overall, DEP and partner agencies are making progress in cleaning up many TMDL watersheds. But as hundreds of additional TMDLs are completed over the next decade, the challenges of implementation will multiply. It is therefore crucial that DEP create an infrastructure for TMDL implementation now.

Implementation of West Virginia's TMDLs would be more effective if DEP:

Sets a broad public goal of implementing all TMDLs and cleaning up all impaired waters,

Drafts implementation plans as integral parts of each completed TMDL,

Devotes additional funding to nonpoint source reductions,

Coordinates more closely with watershed organizations and local governments, and

Promptly incorporates TMDL wasteload allocations into all targeted NPDES permits.

USEPA can help ensure that West Virginia and other states implement TMDLs by:

Requiring that all TMDLs include implementation plans,

Writing new TMDL regulations that are substantially similar to the delayed 2000 regulations,

Increasing federal funding for states to use to address nonpoint source pollution, and

Strictly overseeing states' NPDES programs in TMDL watersheds.

DEP is mandated to ensure that all water bodies meet state water quality standards. With hundreds of water bodies still polluted in West Virginia, TMDL implementation must receive the funding, staff resources, and political backing required to translate TMDLs into clean streams, rivers, and lakes.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2002

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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