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Numeric Nutrient Criteria Development: Challenges and Impacts

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Despite current efforts to limit discharges of nitrogen and phosphorus, these nutrients are still a leading cause of impairments to the nation's surface waters. In reaction to legal pressure from environmental groups, and limited success with its own national nutrient strategy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing new, very low criteria for total nitrogen (TN) and total phosphorus (TP) – as low as 0.12 mg/L TN and 0.01 mg/L TP for certain regions. These new criteria sparked considerable concern and debate on nutrients throughout the nation. This paper explores the challenges confronting state and federal efforts to develop scientifically defensible numeric nutrient criteria as environmental advocates push for the implementation of numeric standards while utilities, agriculture and industries question the methodologies used to develop the criteria, the implementation costs, their effectiveness as a response to the nation's eutrophication problems; and the equity with which the criteria will be applied.

Keywords: Nutrient; nitrogen; numeric nutrient criteria; phosphorus; water quality

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2010

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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 These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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