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EPA does not recommend a national water quality standard for sulfate; therefore, the State of Illinois has adopted its own standards for specific designated uses of waters. USEPA and IEPA identified a conflict between a 3,500 mg/L daily maximum specific for waters receiving coal mine discharges and a 500 mg/L standard for waters designated as general use, for what, on paper, is the same designated use of receiving waters. The elimination of the 3,500 mg/L daily maximum sulfate standard specific to waters receiving coal mining discharge was proposed, resulting in the application of the general use sulfate standard of 500 mg/L to all surface waters. IEPA determined the 500 mg/L standard was overly stringent as a General Use standard protective of aquatic organisms and cause for a significant economic burden to the coal industry. IEPA and the Illinois Coal Association (ICA) initiated an effort to develop an alternative general use sulfate standard. ADVENT-ENVIRON's contribution included an unsuccessful attempt at re-deriving water quality criteria using the traditional approach and an evaluation existing aquatic field data to determine ecosystem health versus sulfate concentrations relationships that verify biological sulfate tolerance.

A review of toxicity data indicated a concentration of 2,000-mg/L sulfate would be protective of resident aquatic organisms. We also reviewed water-quality based biological survey data from within the coal mining regions of Illinois to field-verify that 2,000 mg/L sulfate was protective of resident sulfate-sensitive aquatic organisms. The statewide application of a proposed General Use standard of 2,000 mg/L sulfate is currently being reviewed by IEPA.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2005-01-01

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