EPA Places 35% of Lakes and 24% of Rivers under Fish Advisories

September 03, 2004

EPA recently released its summary of information on locally-issued fish advisories and safe-eating guidelines. States monitor their waters by sampling fish tissue for long-lasting pollutants that bioaccumulate and issue their advisories and guidelines voluntarily. In doing so, they have flexibility in what criteria they use and how the data are collected. As a result, there are significant variations in the numbers of waters tested, the pollutants tested for and the threshold for issuing advisories. Based on self-reporting, the national trend is for states to monitor different waters each year, generally without retesting waters monitored in previous years.

The number of fish advisories is increasing even as emissions for major pollutants are decreasing. In 2003, 48 states, the District of Columbia and American Samoa issued 3,094 fish advisories, an increase of 280 advisories over the previous year. With these additions, 35 percent of the total lake acres and 24 percent of the river miles in the nation are now under advisory. Since 2002, the number of lake acres under an advisory increased by two percent, river miles by nine percent and coastline by four percent.

States issue fish consumption advisories if elevated concentrations of chemicals such as mercury or dioxin are found in local fish. As new waters are tested and results added to previous yearsÆ findings, the number of fish advisories continues to rise. Most of the new fishing advisories involve mercury despite the fact that U.S. emissions of mercury have declined by almost 50 percent since 1990.

States issue advisories for any of 40 different pollutants. Ninety-eight percent of these involve five bioaccumulative contaminants: PCBs, chlordane, dioxins, DDT and mercury. In addition to steps to reduce mercury emissions, actions have or are being taken to address other pollutants of concern.

A fact sheet with additional information is available at: http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/fish/.

Proposed Rule Provides Protection for Brownfields Purchasers

To encourage the purchase, cleanup, reuse and economic revitalization of property that may be environmentally contaminated, EPA has announced a proposed rule requiring potential owners to conduct certain inquiries into the previous ownership, uses, and environmental conditions of land prior to purchase. If the inquiries are performed properly and other reasonable steps undertaken, the purchasers can buy the land with assurance from EPA that they will not be subject to lawsuits under the Superfund hazardous waste cleanup law.

For more information, see http://www.epa.gov/brownfields/regneg.htm . Use Environmental Resource Center's environmental assessment service to conduct a Phase I or Phase II evaluation of your site.

EPA Publishes NPDES Permits Online

EPA has developed a search engine which can be used to find both individual and general permits, and is collecting copies of NPDES individual and general permits and fact sheets for major facilities issued after November 1, 2002.

An individual permit is a permit specifically tailored to an individual facility. Once a facility submits the appropriate application(s), the permitting authority develops a permit for that particular facility based on the information contained in the permit application (e.g., type of activity, nature of discharge, receiving water quality).

A general permit is an NPDES permit that covers several facilities that have the same type of discharge and are located in a specific geographic area. A general permit applies the same or similar conditions to all dischargers covered under the general permit. Using a general permit to cover numerous facilities reduces paperwork for permitting authorities and permittees, and ensures consistency of permit conditions for similar facilities.

States may apply to EPA for authorization to issue general permits. Once EPA or a state has issued a general permit, a facility wishing to be covered under the permit submits a Notice of Intent (NOI) to the permitting authority. EPA or the State may still require the facility to submit an individual permit application and receive an individual NPDES permit if it determines that coverage under the general permit is inappropriate.

See http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/permitissuance/genpermits.cfm for details.

Innovative Air Quality Initiatives Eligible for Grants

The EPA is inviting states, local air pollution control organizations, and tribal representatives to compete for two $25,000 grants that will be awarded to the most innovative initiative or measure for improving air quality. The grant would be used to help fund the actual initiative or measure, or to fund a pilot program to demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed initiative. The deadline for submitting applications to EPA is September 10, 2004.

For more information, see: http://www.epa.gov/globalwarming/ls/4.html.

Does Your Construction Site Need a Stormwater Permit?

EPA recently published "A Construction Site Operator's Guide to EPA's Stormwater Permit Program." This brochure provides construction companies with a brief overview of EPA's Construction General Permit (CGP) and its requirements. It is being sent to construction companies to inform them of the need to obtain permit coverage for sites disturbing one acre or more. The brochure contains a summary of the major provisions of the CGP, including areas of coverage, using EPA's new electronic notice of intent system for obtaining permit coverage, developing a stormwater pollution prevention plan, and more.

Learn how to comply with the latest storm water regulations at Environmental Resource Center's Storm Water seminars.