[Federal Register Volume 63, Number 122 (Thursday, June 25, 1998)]
[Notices]
[Pages 34648-34650]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 98-16941]


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ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

[OW-FRL-6116-6]


Notice of National Strategy for the Development of Regional 
Nutrient Criteria

AGENCY: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

ACTION: Notice of National Strategy for the Development of Regional 
Nutrient Criteria, and request for comments.

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SUMMARY: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announces the 
availability of a National Strategy for the Development of Regional 
Nutrient Criteria. The Strategy describes the aspproach the Agency is 
taking to develop scientific information relating to nutrient 
overenrichment of the Nation's surface waters and to working with 
States to assure that State water quality standards reflect this 
nutrient information.
    This Strategy has been through Agency review and external peer 
review. If you have comments on this document please provide them to 
the address below. They will be addressed in future updates of the 
Strategy.

DATES: Written comments should be submitted to the person listed by 
August 24, 1998.
    Comments should be sent to: Nicholas A. Baer, Health and Ecological 
Criteria Division (4304), Office of Science and Technology, Office of 
Water, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 401 M Street SW, 
Washington, DC 20460.

ADDRESSES: This notice contains a summary of the National Strategy for 
the Development of Regional Nutrient Criteria. Copies of the complete 
document or a fact sheet summarizing the Strategy may be obtained from 
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,

[[Page 34649]]

National Center for Environmental Publication and Information, 11029 
Kenwood Road, Bldg. 5, Cincinnati, Ohio 45242; fax 1-513-489-8695 or 1-
800-490-9198. The fact sheet and the Strategy are also available on the 
Internet at http://www.epa.gov/ncepihom/orderpub.html.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert Cantilli, Health and Ecological 
Criteria Division (4304), Office of Science and Technology, Office of 
Water, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 401 M Street SW, 
Washington, DC 20460, (202) 260-5546, Fax (202) 260-1036, email: 
cantilli.robert@epamail.epa.gov

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Nutrients are essential to the health and diversity of surface 
waters. In excess amounts, however, nutrients cause hypereutrophication 
resulting in an overabundance of primary producers and decline of the 
biological community as well as potential human health risks. The 
National Water Quality Inventory 1996 Report to Congress cites 
nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) as one of the leading causes of 
water quality impairment in our Nation's rivers, lakes and estuaries. 
Nutrients have also been implicated with the large hypoxic zone in the 
Gulf of Mexico, and Pfiesteria-induced fish kills and human health 
problems in the coastal waters of several East Coast States as well as 
events in the Gulf States.

Nutrient Strategy

    A number of States have identified the specific concentration 
levels at which nutrient overenrichment occurs in their waters, but 
many States have not adopted such nutrient criteria into their State 
water quality standards. As a result, nutrient overenrichment problems 
are underestimated and the response authorities of the Clean Water Act 
and other laws are not fully engaged. This Strategy describes the 
approach EPA will take for development of scientific information 
relating to nutrients (i.e., water quality criteria pursuant to Section 
304(a) of the Clean Water Act) and to working with States to assure 
adoption of nutrient criteria into State water quality standards 
pursuant to Section 303(c) of the Clean Water Act.
    The major elements of this strategy include:
     Use of regional and waterbody-type approach for the 
development of nutrient water quality criteria.
     Development of technical guidance documents that will 
serve as ``user manuals'' for assessing trophic state and developing 
nutrient criteria specific to a region and waterbody-type. These 
guidance documents will establish nutrient water quality criteria in 
the form of numerical regional target ranges. EPA expects States and 
Tribes to use these criteria as a basis for the development of nutrient 
provision of water quality standards. These water quality standards 
will provide a basis for a range of pollution control activities 
including NPDES permits and total maximum daily loads (TMDLs).
     Establishment of a EPA National Nutrient Team with 
Regional Nutrient Coordinators to development regional databases and to 
promote State and Tribal involvement.
     Monitoring and evaluation of the effectiveness of nutrient 
management programs as they are implemented.

Regional and Waterbody-Type Approach

    There is a great deal of variability in nutrient levels and 
nutrient responses throughout the country. This natural variability is 
due to differences in geology, climate and waterbody type. For these 
reasons, EPA's custom of developing water quality criteria guidance in 
the form of single numbers for nationwide application is not 
appropriate for nutrients. EPA believes that distinct geographic 
regions and types of aquatic ecosystems need to be evaluated 
differently and that criteria specific to those regions and ecosystems 
need to be developed.

Waterbody-Type Technical Guidance

    An essential technical element of this strategy will be waterbody-
type guidance documents describing the techniques for assessing the 
trophic state of a waterbody and methodologies for developing regional 
nutrient criteria. In addition, each technical document will provide 
criteria guidance under section 304(a) of the Clean Water Act in the 
form of Regional numerical target ranges for phosphorus, nitrogen, and 
other nutrient endpoints. EPA expects States and Tribes to use these 
target ranges as the basis for adopting nutrient criteria into water 
quality standards in the absence of more site-specifically developed 
water quality criteria and standards. EPA intends to use State 
databases to develop these regional target ranges, supplemented with 
new regional case studies and demonstration projects to provide 
additional information. EPA intends to complete these technical 
guidance documents by the end of the year 2001.

Revision of State Water Quality Standards

    As technical guidance is developed and regional nutrient ranges are 
established, EPA expects States and Tribes to revise water quality 
standards to include appropriate regional nutrient criteria by 
waterbody type. Once adopted as part of State or Tribal water quality 
standards, the nutrient values become the basis for making many 
management decisions to reduce the overenrichment of our nation's 
waters, e.g., through the TMDL and NPDES permitting processes. These 
values used together with best management practices (BMPs) and other 
management techniques should form the basis of a State management 
program for nutrients.
    EPA expects all States and Tribes to adopt and implement numerical 
nutrient criteria into their water quality standards by December 31, 
2003. States and Tribes may accomplish this by developing their own 
regional criteria values in watersheds where applicable data are 
available or by using the EPA target nutrient ranges. EPA will review 
the new or revised standards under Section 303(c)(3) of the Clean Water 
Act. If EPA disapproves the new or revised standard submitted by a 
State or Tribe (e.g., because EPA determines that it is not 
scientifically defensible or is not protective of designated uses), or 
if EPA determines that a new or revised nutrient standard is necessary 
for a State or Tribe (e.g., because EPA determines that the State or 
Tribe has not demonstrated reasonable progress toward developing 
numerical nutrient standards), EPA will initiate rulemaking to 
promulgate nutrient criteria appropriate to the region and waterbody 
types. Any resulting water quality standard would apply until the State 
or Tribe adopts and EPA approves a revised standard.

National and Regional Nutrient Teams

    EPA will provide additional technical and financial assistance to 
the Regions and States to accelerate the development of nutrient 
criteria. This will include the establishment of a National Nutrient 
Team which includes coordinators from each EPA Region. The Regional 
Coordinator will foster the development and implementation of State 
projects, databases, nutrient criteria and standards, and the award of 
financial assistance to States and Tribes to support these endeavors. 
Each coordinator will be responsible for nutrient management activities 
for her/his Region and its member States and Tribes consistent with 
decisions of the

[[Page 34650]]

national nutrient program. It is expected that each Regional 
coordinator will form their own teams which include State and Tribal 
representatives and other federal and local representatives, as needed, 
to develop nutrient databases and nutrient target ranges.

Monitoring and Evaluation

    Once regulatory controls are in place, EPA and the States/Tribes 
will need to evaluate their effectiveness. The databases and monitoring 
systems, together with the derived criteria, should be used to assess 
actual progress toward eliminating overenrichment conditions.

    Dated: June 18, 1998.
Robert Perciasepe,
Assistant Administrator for Water.
[FR Doc. 98-16941 Filed 6-24-98; 8:45 am]
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