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Proposed Guidelines to Control Pollution from Construction Sites

EPA News Release date: 11/19/2008
Contact Information: Enesta Jones, (202) 564-4355 / jones.enesta@epa.gov

(Washington, D.C. – Nov. 19, 2008) EPA is seeking comments on its proposed guidelines to control the discharge of pollutants from construction sites. The proposal would require all construction sites to implement erosion and sediment control best management practices to reduce pollutants in stormwater discharges.

"This proposal builds a foundation for cleaner streams and greener neighborhoods through improved treatment technologies and prevention practices," said Benjamin H. Grumbles, EPA’s assistant administrator for water.

In addition, for certain large sites located in areas of the country with high rainfall intensity and soils with a high clay content, stormwater discharges from the construction site would be required to meet a numeric limit on the allowable level of turbidity, which is a measure of sediment in the water. In order to meet the proposed numeric turbidity limit, many sites would need to treat and filter their stormwater discharges.

Construction activities such as clearing, excavating and grading significantly disturb the land. The disturbed soil, if not managed properly, can easily be washed off the construction site during storms and enter streams, lakes, and other waters. Stormwater discharges from construction activities can cause an array of physical, chemical and biological impacts.

Sediment is one of the leading causes of water quality impairment nationwide, including reducing water depth in small streams, lakes and reservoirs.

Information on the proposal and review: http://www.epa.gov/ost/guide/construction/

Erosion properties tested on pile burn footprints

Project is the first of its kind in the Tahoe Basin
By Nick Cruit, Sierra Sun, 10/28/08

Drea Traeumer of Em Consulting performs a dye test while Micheal Ukraine, Rachel Arst, and Tim Delaney of Integrated Environmental Restoration Services collect data at a prescribed burn site on Dollar Hill in Tahoe City. The research crew is studying the effects of prescribed burns on erosion and sediment runoff into Lake Tahoe.
Seth Lightcap/Sierra SunA team of scientists meticulously monitored water flowing down a dusty rill Monday as they conducted experiments in the scorched remains of a recently burned pile of brush near Lake Tahoe.

As part of the first-ever in-depth experiments to determine how prescribed forest burning affects soil erosion in the Tahoe Basin, the team from Integrated Environmental Restoration Services and Em Consulting tested charred craters left by last week’s pile burns near Chinquapin Condominiums in Tahoe City.

Though the test spot is no bigger than the rain shadow left by a car, the impact of their data will effect how decisions are made throughout the Tahoe Basin.

Having already monitored baseline conditions before Calfire’s prescribed burn project, Em Consulting Hydrologist Drea Traeumer and Integrated Environmental scientists teamed up to run rain and rill simulators directly on the footprint of the burned piles.

While the effects of fuels reduction programs on soil properties cause tension around Lake Tahoe, Integrated Environmental rain simulators hope to shed light on the potential for erosion problems caused by water flow.

“We are happy to cooperate with the project,” said North Tahoe Fire Protection District Forest Fuels Program Manager Stewart McMorrow, who helped oversee the prescribed pile burns last week. “It’s important to know what the true effects of pile burning are.”

Discussing a slow environmental process like erosion often causes conflict because it is not easily seen. Hoping to provide “facts, not opinions,” the Integrated Environmental project is a step towards educated management level environmental decisions.

“There’s a lot of dialogue from people who think they know what’s going to happen,” said Kevin Drake Monitoring Manager for Integrated Environmental. “We’re coming up with a body of data to have dialogue with concrete information.”

Data taken from the post-burn tests is only the beginning of a complicated process.

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EPA Expands Study of Pharmaceuticals in Waterways

Wed, Oct 22, 2008 on NBC San Diego online

Originally written by ENS, August 6, 2008 - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to conduct a detailed study of the disposal methods used by hospitals, long-term care facilities, hospices and veterinary hospitals that wish to discard unused pharmaceuticals.

The EPA is seeking more information on the practices of the health care industry to inform future potential regulatory actions, and identify best management and proper disposal practices. EPA has assumed that one facility in seven, approximately 3,500 facilities, would be selected to receive the detailed questionnaire.

To gather this information, the agency has drafted an Information Collection Request and is now seeking public input on the request form. Public comments on the Health Care Industry ICR will be taken for 90 days after it is published in the Federal Register, which should occur shortly.

Drugs taken for pain, infection, high cholesterol, asthma, epilepsy, mental illness and heart problems contaminate U.S. waterways, according to a March 2008 report by the Associated Press National Investigation Team. The findings confirm a 2002 report by the U.S. Geological Survey that was the first nationwide study of pharmaceutical pollution in the nation's rivers and streams.

The questionnaire is one of several actions the agency is taking to strengthen its understanding of disposal practices and potential risks from pharmaceuticals in water.

The agency also is commissioning the National Academy of Sciences to provide scientific advice on the potential risk to human health from low levels of pharmaceutical residues in drinking water. The Academy will convene a workshop of scientific experts December 11-12, to advise the agency on methods for screening and prioritizing pharmaceuticals to determine potential risk.

"The agency's work to increase industry stewardship and scientific understanding of pharmaceuticals in water continues," said Benjamin Grumbles, EPA's assistant administrator for water. "By reaching out to the National Academy of Sciences and requesting information from the health care industry, EPA is taking important steps to enhance its efforts," he said.

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Post-Restoration Water-Quality Monitoring: Tracking aquatic habitat improvements

September 2008 issue, The Stormwater Newsletter
By Dan Smith

The Pacific Northwest and the Puget Sound have witnessed a steady onslaught of urbanization during the last century, with the most rapid development occurring from the 1950s to the present. Partnered with human daily activity, widespread urbanization has negatively affected the attributes of most of the region’s aquatic ecosystems.

As large-scale watershed alterations have advanced, the stability and quality of local stream and riparian environs has degraded. The magnitude and frequency of high flows has increased, habitat has disappeared, sedimentation has escalated, and pollutant levels continue to grow. As a result, the magnificent and diverse floral and faunal populations of the Puget Sound, especially native salmon, have become at risk.

Since incorporation in 1990, the city of Federal Way, WA, has completed a number of projects designed to counteract the extensive changes that have affected West Hylebos Creek, an important small stream in the Central Puget Sound that once yielded healthy and plentiful salmon runs. Improvements have included a series of regional stormwater detention facility installations, wetlands rehabilitation, and stream restoration projects that were designed to be consistent with the principal goal outlined in the city’s Surface Water Management Plan: “To protect, preserve, and enhance the beneficial uses of surface water for recreation, fish and wildlife habitat, aesthetic enjoyment, aquifer recharge, and open space.”

The city has long recognized the critical connection between riparian characteristics and watershed habitat conditions, and it continues to seek local aquatic ecosystem improvements. In 2004, the city pursued a golden opportunity—the Surface Water Management (SWM) division applied for and was awarded a State of Washington Department of Ecology Centennial Clean Water Fund Grant to fund an innovative restoration project targeting the West Hylebos Creek.

Initiated in 2003, the project was designed to prevent further stream degradation in this altered drainage basin where historical high-energy flows caused severe erosion of the streambed and streambanks. The ambitious undertaking included efforts to address adverse changes that resulted in extensive sediment and gravel transportation, localized flooding, loss of wetland function, and degraded aquatic habitat.

The project also involved a stratagem for ongoing water-quality monitoring with a comprehensive plan modeled to measure the restoration’s effectiveness in reducing pollutant loadings. The essential question being asked was “Will restoration of the stream improve both water quality and aquatic habitat as desired?”

Paul Bucich, surface water manager, addresses the issue by commenting, “Too often a restoration project is constructed and then all the participants from the designers to the permit writers pat each other on the backs, congratulate each other, and then move on without another backward glance—never to learn if the project was a success.” He continues, “With this project, we had the opportunity to partner with a state resource agency to study the long-term effects of our work. Unlike many monitoring efforts, this one had a well-defined question we could craft a monitoring effort around.”

Water quality award presented to Roland Westergard

Special to Carson Times, via RGJ.com
October 17, 2008

Longtime water resource advocate Roland Westergard was recognized today by the State of Nevada for his lifetime of dedication to the protection of the state's water resources.

The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection presented its 2008 Wendell McCurry Excellence in Water Quality Award to Westergard at a ceremony at the offices of the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources in Carson City this week, with members of his family and many friends and colleagues in attendance.

The award recognizes his nearly 50 years of work in water quality protection and water conservation education, especially relating to Lake Tahoe.

Westergard is past director of department and played a key role in the Truckee River Operating Agreement, which was signed last month after 20 years of negotiation. A major focus of the agreement is water quality.

As a member of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency's governing board from 1983 to 1998, including two years as chair, Westergard was instrumental in the development of several milestone water policies, including the bi-state compact with California and the development of water quality standards that establish beneficial uses of the lake and criteria to protect those uses. The compact was approved by Congress and signed into law in 1990.

Widely respected for his integrity and breadth of experience, Westergard is also credited with fighting for the environmental protection of Lake Tahoe and its watershed, especially during the 1980s and '90s, in the face of heavy political pressure from pro-development interests.

"No one is more committed, more passionate, or more persuasive than Roland when it comes to advocating for protection of Nevada's water resources," said Allen Biaggi, the department's director, in presenting the award. "His knowledge and experience in water resource management are virtually unmatched. When he talks about water, everyone listens."

EPA faulted on waterway pollution from sprawl

"EPA faulted on waterway pollution from sprawl"

Source: Directly, Department of Water Resources' California Water News online, October 16, 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Environmental Protection Agency is failing to stem the pollution washing into waterways from cities and suburbs, the National Academy of Sciences reported Wednesday. The report's authors urged "radical changes" in how the federal government regulates stormwater runoff so that all waters are clean enough for fishing and swimming.

"The take-home message is the program as it has been implemented in the last 18 to 20 years has largely been a failure, said Xavier Swamikannu, one of the authors and the head of Los Angeles' stormwater program for the California Environmental Protection Agency.

Stormwater runoff is the toxic brew of oil, fertilizers and trash picked up by rain and snowmelt as the water flows over parking lots, roofs and subdivisions.

The report said responsibility for managing stormwater must shift from developers to local governments, and permits should be issued on the boundaries of a watershed, rather than state borders. Such a change probably would require a new law and take between five years to 10
years, the report said.

While urban areas cover only 3 percent of the U.S., it is estimated that their runoff is the primary source of pollution in 13 percent of rivers, 18 percent of lakes and 32 percent of estuaries.

Current law is ill-equipped to deal with the problem, the authors said.

Congress required the EPA in 1987 to start issuing permits under the Clean Water Act to industrial and construction sites. But lawmakers changed the focus on water pollution, from industrial discharges and sewage pipes to runoff, a problem that is much larger and harder to
pinpoint. The law is designed to target specific contaminants, when the problem with stormwater often is one of volume. A surge of water after a storm can cause streams to erode and fill waterways with sediment.

Benjamin H. Grumbles, the EPA's assistant administrator for water, said the findings underscored the approaches the EPA is taking. The agency requested the review in 2006, but Grumbles disagreed on Wednesday with the conclusion that the stormwater program was failing.

"We want to accelerate the progress on reducing pollution and managing stormwater. We believe sound science, pollution prevention, and watershed protection will ensure continued clean water progress," he said.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private organization chartered by Congress to advise the government of scientific matters.

Tahoe Rim Trail gets a new, improved section

Emma Garrard / Sierra Sun via Tahoe Daily Tribune
October 3, 2008

The Tahoe Rim Trail added another mile to its 165-mile circumference after rerouting a section of the trail from Tahoe City to Cindercone this summer. The trail was rerouted to make a more environmentally-friendly, sustainable and scenic trail including better erosion control, water quality and protection for wildlife in the area, in particular the protected Northern goshawk, said Jim Backhus, a Tahoe Rim Trail board member and senior crew leader.

The trail, which used to be one of the least-used sections of the Rim Trail, may become one of the more popular, Backhus said. "Once people get used to it, they will find they like it more," he said.

Garrett Villanueva, a civil engineer for the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit who helped construct the trail, agrees it is more scenic than before. "It has amazing vistas of the lake and the upper Truckee River canyon," Villanueva said.

The trail was built with the help of the Forest Service, Nevada Conservation Corps and Tahoe Rim Trail volunteers. The project was funded by the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act. Although the Tahoe Rim Trail Association started planning the trail in 2004, it began construction last fall with most of the trail work completed this summer.

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Tahoe Keys a center for recreation — and controversy

Adam Jensen, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Few construction projects in the Lake Tahoe Basin highlight the often-conflicting interests of development and environmental protection quite like the Tahoe Keys. Built in the late 1950s and early ’60s, the 740-acre development at the mouth of the Upper Truckee River has alternately been seen as an appealing place to live and an environmental disaster.

An estimated 5 million cubic yards of material were dredged from the marsh at the mouth of the river to create the fingers of land interlaced with 11 miles of backyard waterways that make up the Keys. The effort destroyed much of the river’s marsh and removed a major filtration system from Lake Tahoe’s largest tributary, identified by the Lahontan Water Board as a major source of fine sediment that reduces the clarity of the lake.

The draw of the development is undeniable, and marketing for the neighborhood has changed little over the past four decades.

“Most of the 1,539 members who own homes, townhouses or vacant lots have a private boat dock and are located on numerous lagoons, canals or the Tahoe Keys Marina with its boat-launching ramps,” according to the Tahoe Keys Property Owners Association. “Waterfront living provides direct access to Lake Tahoe and its many watersports. At Tahoe Keys, we enjoy breathtaking views of the lake and mountains, and enjoy amenities like tennis, indoor and outdoor pools, spa and more.”

While the attraction of living in the Keys has remained the same, the development more recently has faced a new set of environmental issues, including the fight against the introduction of aquatic invasive species into Lake Tahoe.

Eurasian watermilfoil was discovered in the Keys in the 1980s and, despite efforts to remove it, has spread to numerous locations around the lake. Researchers also have indicated the Keys area is the likely introduction point for a growing population of warmwater fish species around the lake.

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Project TamesTruckee Floods By Turning To Nature

Sep 18, 2008
KOLO TV-8, Reporter: Ed Pearce

There were speeches beneath the big cottonwoods just east of the Tracy Power Station Thursday morning and shiny shovels stood ready for ceremonial groundbreaking. In fact, ground was broken at what was once the 102 Ranch a month ago. A brand new meander has been carved for the river. Nearby big earth movers are beginning to create what will be new wetlands.

By late fall, this stretch of the Truckee River will start to resemble the healthy habitat nature intended, like another spot a few miles upstream. There what was once McCarran ranch was bought by the Nature Conservancy and the river and the land was restored to something resembling what it was before the ranch was built in the 1880's. In fact, the meander there was built, rock riffles added to the stream bed, native vegetation restored. Nearby new wetlands are already well established. A few years after it was built, it's just about ready for public access and recreation. More than that it's also ready for the next flood.

"It slows the water and when it floods it just spreads out over the flood plain and holds it, creating storage and keeping it from rushing downstream where it could cause damage, says Danielle Henderson, the Natural Resource Manager for the Truckee River Flood Project.”It's like a big sponge."

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Municipal In-Stream Monitoring

Stormwater E-magazine, September 2008 edition
Accountability in comprehensive sampling
By Lanse Norris

“Water is the one substance from which the earth can conceal nothing; it sucks out its innermost secrets and brings them to our very lips.”
—Jean Giraudoux

What Comprises Comprehensive Sampling?
Since the early ’70s, Cobb County, GA’s municipal in-stream monitoring efforts have evolved into a program that conducts sampling across 21 sub-watersheds at 93 chemical sites per quarter, 24 macroinvertebrate sites per year, 24 habitat assessment sites biannually, and 24 fish sites every five years. Sites were selected considering land use, proximity to industries, and stream confluences of representative reaches.

The chemical data generate a water quality index (WQI) score derived from comparing the value for any parameter of interest with values for the same available parameter from sampling results recorded throughout the Atlanta region. The index itself is a value between 0.00 and 1.00, with 0.00 representing the best value in the database for each parameter. Table 1 shows the Cobb Stream Monitoring Program chemical data for an actual site with each parameter and applicable scores. The aggregate WQI for the site is calculated as the numeric average of the available WQIs shown.

Biological sampling produces macroinvertebrate and fish data, which are scored on an index of biotic integrity (IBI). Habitat assessments are scored on a standardized form following state of Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) protocol.
A Cobb County Water System Watershed Monitoring Program Annual Report is published containing all of the chemical, biological, and habitat data collected; many permits addressing surface waters impacted by wastewater discharge, stormwater, point and non-point sources are maintained by the data. In the report, narratives for each site summarize a year’s worth of changes to the stream channel, riparian zone, and watershed itself as personnel wade upstream and drive through the watershed on the way to each site.

How Comprehensive Is It?
Ions in the Stream. Chemical monitoring parameters and methods are long-established water-quality standards prescribed by the approved 20th edition of Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater (Clesceri et al. 1998) and are implicit in environmental regulatory sampling like National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) wet-weather ambient trend monitoring. Cobb County Stream Monitoring personnel take extra measures to ensure accuracy and integrity. For example, rather than rely on precarious dissolved oxygen (DO) meter readings, Winkler titration method dissolved oxygen samples are “fixed” in the field for more consistent and accurate analysis by Cobb’s Georgia Association of Water Professionals certified wastewater laboratory. Quality-control samples are collected at the first site for a given stream, and all samples are collected mid-depth in representative flow when possible and preserved in the field before transportation to the laboratory. Field notes supporting chemical sample characteristics are made concerning weather, degree of flow, color, odor, and turbidity.

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