October 12, 2001

Methods for measuring whole effluent toxicity (WET) in effluents and the waters into which they are discharged would be updated and revised to address concerns by several affected parties under an Environmental Protection Agency proposal (66 FR 49,794).

According to an EPA fact sheet, the WET test methods would be revised regarding the precision of the test methods, reflecting recent variability studies.

EPA issued a final rule in October 1995 setting consistent procedures for determining the overall toxicity of effluent discharged into U.S. waters. That WET test rule contained 17 methods for estimating acute and chronic toxicity. However, several groups sued the agency challenging the rule (Edison Electric Institute v. EPA, D.C. Cir., No. 96-1062, and consolidated cases).

WET tests, which seek to characterize effluent as a whole in terms of its toxic effects on certain test species, such as flathead minnows, have been criticized because they have been known to generate false positives, exaggerating the toxicity of the effluent. These erroneous results could result in tighter National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit limits being unnecessarily imposed on dischargers. As part of the settlement of the legal challenges, EPA agreed to conduct variability studies on 12 of the 17 test methods contained in the 1995 rule to quantify the rate of false positives and then to issue rules requiring variability to be considered when test results are used for permit-related activities.

In the Sept. 28 proposal, EPA said it would ratify 11 of 12 test methods and would withdraw one test method and repropose it. Marion Kelly, of the EPA Office of Water Engineering and Analysis Division, said the test method being withdrawn and reproposed would be a "stand-alone" method.

According to the proposed rule, the variability study revealed "acute test procedures" designed for one species -- Mysidopsis bahia, a type of shrimp -- "were insufficient for successful test conduct using" another type of crustacean known as Holmesimysis costata.

"For this reason, EPA proposes to withdraw Holmesimysis costata as an acceptable species for use in the Mysidopsis bahia acute test method and to propose it as an acute toxicity test method designed specifically for Holmesimysis costata," the proposal said.

In the proposal, the agency said it intends to focus only on analytic testing methodologies to measure whole effluent toxicity and not on the implementation of WET control strategies. Some groups questioned whether publishing WET test methods is tantamount to issuing water quality criteria for toxicity.

"EPA's promulgation of WET test procedures are not water quality criteria recommendations," the proposal said. "The test methods themselves are not per se translators of the narrative criterion: 'no toxics in toxic amounts. The test methods are merely the measurement tools according to which such criteria may be translated."

The Sept. 28 proposal includes changes to the three test method manuals: Methods for Measuring the Acute Toxicity of Effluents and Receiving Waters to Freshwater and Marine Organisms, Fourth Edition, (EPA/600/4-90/027F); Short-term Methods to Estimate the Chronic Toxicity of Effluents and Receiving Waters to Freshwater Organisms, Third Edition, July, 1994, (EPA/600/4-91/002); and Short-term Methods to Estimate the Chronic Toxicity of Effluents and Receiving Waters to Estuarine and Marine Organisms, Second Edition, July 1994, (EPA/600/4-91/003).

Comments should be submitted by Nov. 27 to "Whole Effluent Toxicity (WET) Test Method Changes" Comment Clerk (WET-IX), Water Docket (4101), EPA, Ariel Rios Bldg., 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20460 or to

Regulatory information on the proposal is available from Marion Kelly, EPA Office of Water, Office of Science and Technology, Engineering and Analysis Division, Ariel Rios Bldg., 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20460, by calling (202) 260-7117 or by e-mail at

Technical information is available from Teresa J. Norberg-King, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Mid-Continent Ecology Division, Office of Research and Development, EPA, 6201 Congdon Blvd., Duluth, Minn. 55804 or (218) 529-5163 or at via e-mail.


A proposal delaying the effective date of a rule revising the total maximum daily loads program will be made final soon, an Environmental Protection Agency official confirmed Oct. 2, setting the stage for a series of "listening sessions" designed to collect ideas to further fine tune the rule.

EPA has scheduled five listening sessions to provide interested parties opportunities to discuss issues associated with the total maximum daily loads program and its possible revisions. A proposal to modify the TMDL rule is expected by mid-2002. The final rule and notice of the listening sessions was published in the Federal Register.

The TMDL rule is aimed at cleaning up the nation's impaired waters by allocating pollutant discharge limits among point sources. Revisions to the TMDL program were published by EPA in July 2000 but were not to become effective until Oct. 1, 2001, because of congressional opposition to the changes. EPA proposed Aug. 9 to delay it another 18 months to give the agency time to consider revisions. The July 2000 revisions to the program have been controversial, prompting more than a dozen groups to challenge the agency rulemaking.

In comments submitted Sept. 10, industry groups, municipalities, and agricultural interests generally supported the delay, saying the rule was flawed and needed to be overhauled. Environmental advocates opposed the delay calling it a first step toward weakening the program that has largely been driven by lawsuits.

The July 2000 rule would expand the program's reach to include nonpoint sources of pollution in certain cases, would require states to develop implementation plans for TMDL development, and would set rigid schedules that states have said would be difficult to meet.

The five listening sessions will be held in different parts of the United States and will focus on specific aspects of the rule. The schedule and corresponding themes are:

  • Implementing TMDLs addressing nonpoint sources of pollution, Oct. 22-23 in Chicago
  • Scope and content of TMDLs, Nov. 1-2 in Sacramento
  • EPA's role, the pace and schedule for developing TMDLs, and permitting issues before and after TMDLs are completed, Nov. 7-8 in Atlanta
  • Listing impaired waters, Nov. 15-16 in Oklahoma City
  • All issues associated with TMDLs, Dec. 11 in Washington, D.C.

Some interested parties have criticized the agency for holding listening sessions instead of formal public hearings because the comments do not necessarily have to become part of the formal record associated with the rulemaking.

More details on the meetings can be found at


Industry representatives expressed concern at a September 24 meeting to review the draft guidance for reporting releases of lead and lead compounds to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). The main concern expressed was the short length of time allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for those affected by the new rule to comment on the guidance. EPA issued the draft guidance for the rule September 10, and comments were due by September 20.

At the meeting, industry representatives commented on various other issues they would like addressed in the revised guidance, including: how to report lead released from the processing of stainless steel, brass, and bronze alloys that contain lead, what sources of information to consult in making determination of lead content in materials with very low concentrations, and the inclusion of references to other agency documents related to TRI reporting for the benefit of small businesses not required to report prior to this rule.

Agency officials did say that the additional comments received at the meeting would be considered in a revised version of the draft guidance that is slated to be issued by the end of October. EPA plans to hold training workshops in each of the 10 EPA regions beginning in October, and expects to use the revised guidance in the sessions. The draft guidance is available on EPA's website at:


EPA Administrator Christie Whitman announced the establishment of a water protection task force at the Agency that will be charged with helping federal, state and local partners to expand their tools to safeguard the nation's drinking water supply from terrorist attack.

"While EPA already has a strong coordinated partnership program for protecting our drinking water, this task force will have specific duties to expand EPA's service to the community water systems," said Whitman.

"The threat of public harm from an attack on our nation's water supply is small. Our goal here is to ensure that drinking water utilities in every community have access to the best scientific information and technical expertise they need, and to know what immediate steps to take and to whom to turn for help," Whitman added.

EPA already has in place a notification system to quickly share information among drinking water providers, the law enforcement community (local, state and federal), and emergency response officials. This system, developed through a public/private partnership with the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) and the FBI, alerts authorities and water system officials to threats, potential vulnerabilities and incidents. This type of notification went out as an FBI alert after the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. EPA has given the AMWA a $600,000 grant to continue to improve this notification system with a secure web-based "virtual center." The Information Sharing and Analysis Center can be accessed by all partners, including wastewater facilities.

In the unlikely event of an attack on a water system, a drinking water utility would activate its existing emergency response plan with state emergency officials. If needed, these plans provide for shutting down the system, notifying the public of any emergency steps they might need to take (for example, boiling water) and providing alternative sources of water.

Water systems in this nation are generally self-contained. Unlike other utilities that are interconnected across large parts of the nation, individual water systems serve a defined area. There are about 168,000 public water systems nationwide. Should an attack be suspected, EPA can dispatch expert emergency response personnel to the scene immediately, as was done for the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. These experts are located in all of EPA's ten regions and they have considerable experience in working with local, state and federal emergency officials and are prepared to help with monitoring, cleanup and expert advice on contaminants.

The water protection task force will be charged with providing immediate guidance to water systems on improving security. It will revise a draft 1998 infrastructure plan while continuing to implement the existing strategy. And it will identify potential gaps in infrastructure protection and preparedness. Finally, it will consult with the utility industry and the states and tribes to determine additional steps that can be taken to increase the security of our nation's drinking water supplies. The first report on these additional steps is due within two weeks.

The task force will consider how EPA can support efforts by utilities to accelerate local vulnerability assessments and mitigation actions. The goal is to ensure that water utilities are undertaking the steps to understand vulnerable points and to mitigate the threat from terrorist attacks as quickly as possible. The task force will work to speed up the availability of new advanced materials being prepared by EPA other federal agencies and private sector partners, that will be used in preparedness efforts.

EPA has worked closely with experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy to better understand the potential of biological and chemical contaminants, and their fate and transport within drinking water. The information has been used to develop in-depth tools to help water systems assess vulnerabilities in their systems, determine actions that need to be taken to guard against an attack, and enhance emergency response plans. Beginning in a few weeks, EPA, along with the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the AWWA Research Foundation, will provide training for management and employees in these advanced approaches to drinking water systems.


Representative Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat recently elected as the House Minority Whip by Democrats in the House of Representatives, has been hailed as a champion of environmental causes.

Current House Minority Whip, Representative David Bonior, a Michigan Democrat, will step down in January, 2002. Environmental groups are commending the 118 to 95 House vote that made Pelosi the first woman to hold the minority whip position, and made her the highest ranking woman in the history of Congress.

"Representative Pelosi's election is among the best news for America's environment this century," said Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope. "Pelosi is a treasured friend of the environment and we look forward to continuing to work with her to protect our most fragile places and defend human rights around the world."

"We are thrilled that House Democrats selected her as their second in command and we want to extend our warmest congratulations to her," added Pope. "Pelosi is a worthy successor of Representative David Bonior, who has always made protecting the environment a priority."

Pope said that Pelosi has championed environmental issues including protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska and the red rock canyons of Utah, and reducing logging in national forests.

"As a vocal defender of human rights of environmentalists around the world, she has worked alongside the Sierra Club on behalf of Ken Saro-Wiwa and Alexander Nikitin," said Pope. "To slow the threats our growing population has on our environment, Representative Pelosi has been a key supporter of family planning initiatives both at home and abroad."


Clean Air Act - October 22: Existing sources subject to organic hazardous air pollutant emission controls under 40 CFR 63, subpart H, for equipment leaks from Groups II and IV chemical process units must submit semiannual report to EPA.

November 14. Each producer, importer, or exporter of a Class II controlled substance must submit a report to EPA providing information on the production, imports, and exports of such chemicals during the previous quarter.

November 19. Sources subject to organic hazardous air pollutant emission controls under 40 CFR 63, Subpart G, for synthetic organic chemical manufacturing industry production processes must submit semiannual report.


U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta sent to Congress proposed legislation that would strengthen security and safety in the transportation of the nation's hazardous materials.

"We are proposing tough actions to address the serious problem of undeclared or hidden shipments of hazardous materials," said Secretary Mineta. "We are also asking for more authority to stop and inspect shipments, important to both security and safety."

The Department of Transportation's (DOT) proposed legislation would:

  • Strengthen DOT inspectors' authority to inspect packages in transportation;
  • Provide those inspectors with authority to stop seriously unsafe transportation;
  • Increase the maximum civil penalty for hazardous materials violations from $27,500 to $100,000;
  • Expand requirements for training persons involved in the transportation of hazardous materials;
  • Strengthen the enforcement authority of DOT's State enforcement partners;
  • Provide the U.S. Postal Service with civil penalty authority to effectively enforce its regulations on mail shipments of hazardous materials;
  • Address the current overlap of hazardous materials transportation regulations between DOT and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, except in certain areas; and
  • Specifically allow participation by states in a coordinated program of hazardous material carrier registrations and permits.

"There are more than 800,000 shipments of hazardous material daily in the United States," said Ellen Engleman, administrator of DOT's Research and Special Programs Administration, which regulates hazardous material transportation safety. "What we are proposing would strengthen the safety and security of these shipments, while preserving the mobility vital to our economy."