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In areas of the country where receiving waters have been designated for recreational uses, any wet weather discharge from a combined sewer system or municipal storm sewer system, or runoff from an agricultural area, is likely to violate the water quality standard for bacteria (regardless of the level of control provided). This is because of the high levels of bacteria associated with such flows.

The development of site-specific, performance-based water quality standards for pathogens shows promise in ensuring that wet weather dischargers develop, implement, and maintain appropriate controls. These standards will also reflect the reality that spending additional resources that would be required to fully control infrequent discharges is cost-prohibitive. By conditioning compliance with water quality standards on the proper application of controls, rather than absolute compliance with a numeric standard, a high degree of control is ensured while protecting municipalities from third-party lawsuits.

This paper will discuss the clarifications that EPA recently provided associated with the criteria to protect recreational uses, and the difficulties in obtaining revisions to water quality standards, including institutional and political barriers. It will also present the few proven performance-based approaches to revising water quality standards to reflect site-specific, wet weather impacts that have been used by states. Finally, it will present actions that can be taken to establish standards for pathogens that are achievable, technically sound, and protective of the environment.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2005-01-01

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