[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 230 (Thursday, November 29, 2012)]
[Pages 71191-71192]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-28909]

[[Page 71191]]



[EPA-OW-2011-0466; FRL 9756-2]

2012 Recreational Water Quality Criteria

AGENCY: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

ACTION: Notice of availability of the 2012 Recreational Water Quality 


SUMMARY: Pursuant to section 304(a) of the Clean Water Act (CWA), the 
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announcing the availability of 
the 2012 Recreational Water Quality Criteria (RWQC). The document 
contains the EPA's recreational water quality criteria recommendations 
for protecting human health in ambient waters that are designated for 
primary contact recreation. CWA Section 304(a) water quality criteria 
recommendations are intended as guidance to States and authorized 
Tribes in developing water quality standards. The 2012 RWQC document 
describes the relevant scientific findings, explains how these findings 
were used to derive criteria for two indicators of fecal contamination 
(enterrococcus and E. coli) as measured by culture based test methods. 
On December 21, 2011, EPA made available draft national recommended 
recreational water quality criteria (2011 Draft RWQC) and provided the 
public an opportunity to provide scientific views.
    The 2012 RWQC differs from the current 1986 Ambient Water Quality 
Criteria in the following ways: the EPA recommends States use one of 
two sets of criteria values, and no longer recommends multiple ``use 
intensity'' values; the RWQC consist of both a geometric mean (GM) and 
a Statistical Threshold Value (STV); the RWQC are now comprised of a 
magnitude, a duration, and frequency of excursion for the GM and STV; 
the EPA introduces a rapid analytical technique for beach monitoring, 
quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), for the detection of 
enterococci in recreational water (EPA Method 1611; the EPA provides 
information on tools for evaluating and managing recreational waters, 
such as predictive modeling; the EPA is providing a beach action value 
for use in beach notification programs; and the EPA is providing tools 
for developing site-specific criteria.
    The CWA, as amended by the Beaches Environmental Assessment and 
Coastal Health (BEACH) Act of 2000, directed the EPA to conduct studies 
associated with pathogens and human health under section 104(v), and to 
publish new or revised criteria for pathogens and pathogen indicators 
based on those studies under section 304(a)(9). The criteria announced 
today are the new or revised criteria that EPA is directed to publish 
under section 304(a)(9) of the CWA, as amended by the BEACH Act.

ADDRESSES: The draft 2011 and final 2012 RWQC documents, as well as the 
scientific views received from the public on the draft 2011 RWQC, are 
available from the EPA Docket Center and are identified by Docket ID 
No. EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0466. They may be accessed online at:
     www.regulations.gov: Follow the on-line instructions.
     Email: OW-Docket@epa.gov.
     Mail: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; EPA Docket 
Center (EPA/DC) Water Docket, MC 28221T; 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW., 
Washington, DC 20460.
     On Site: EPA Docket Center, 1301 Constitution Ave. NW., 
EPA West, Room 3334, Washington, DC. This Docket Facility is open from 
8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding legal 
holidays. The telephone number for the Public Reading Room is (202) 
566-1744, and the telephone number for the Office of Water is (202) 
    For additional information about EPA's public docket visit the EPA 
Docket Center homepage at http://www.epa.gov/epahome/dockets.htm.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For questions concerning the science 
supporting these criteria, contact Sharon Nappier, Health and 
Ecological Criteria Division (4304T), nappier.sharon@epa.gov, U.S. EPA, 
1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW., Washington, DC 20460; (202) 566-0740. For 
questions concerning the use of EPA's criteria recommendations, contact 
Tracy Bone, Standards and Health Protection Division (4305T), 
bone.tracy@epa.gov, U.S. EPA, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW., Washington, 
DC 20460; (202) 564-5257.


I. What are section 304(a) water quality criteria?

    Section 304(a) water quality criteria are recommendations developed 
by EPA under authority of section 304(a) of the Clean Water Act based 
on the latest scientific information on the relationship that the 
effect of a constituent concentration has on particular aquatic species 
and/or human health. Section 304(a)(1) of the Clean Water Act directs 
the EPA to develop and publish and, from time to time, revise, criteria 
for water quality accurately reflecting the latest scientific 
knowledge. Water quality criteria developed under section 304(a) are 
based solely on data and scientific judgments on the relationship 
between pollutant concentrations and environmental and human health 
effects. Section 304(a) criteria do not reflect consideration of 
economic impacts or the technological feasibility of meeting pollutant 
concentrations in ambient water.
    Section 304(a) criteria provide guidance to States and authorized 
Tribes in adopting water quality standards that ultimately provide a 
basis for controlling discharges or releases of pollutants. The 
criteria also provide guidance to the EPA when promulgating Federal 
regulations under section 303(c) when such action is necessary. Under 
the CWA and its implementing regulations, States and authorized Tribes 
are to adopt water quality criteria to protect designated uses (e.g., 
aquatic life, recreational use). States and authorized Tribes may adopt 
other scientifically defensible water quality criteria that differ from 
these recommendations. When adopting new or revised water quality 
standards, the States and authorized Tribes must adopt criteria that 
are scientifically defensible and protective of the designated uses of 
the bodies of water. In establishing criteria, States may base it on 
(1) EPA's recommended criteria, (2) EPA's recommended criteria modified 
to reflect site-specific conditions, or (3) other scientifically 
defensible methods. The EPA's water quality criteria recommendations 
are not regulations. Thus, the EPA's recommended criteria do not 
constitute legally binding requirements.

II. What are the Recreational Water Quality Criteria recommendations?

    The EPA is today publishing the Recreational Water Quality Criteria 
recommendations for protecting human health. The EPA evaluated the 
available data and provided an opportunity for the public to provide 
scientific views on the 2011 Draft RWQC. EPA received more than 9,000 
comments. EPA reviewed the comments and made some changes in response 
to those comments. The comments can be found in the docket associated 
with this action. Based on the available data and input from comments, 
EPA determined that the designated use of primary contact recreation 
would be protected if the following criteria were adopted into water 
quality standards:

[[Page 71192]]

                                              Recommended 2012 RWQC
       Criteria elements          Estimated illness rate: 36 per 1,000
                                        primary contact recreators
                                  Estimated illness rate: 32 per 1,000
                                        primary contact recreators
           Indicator                     GM                  STV                  GM                  STV
                                (cfu/100 mL) \a\     (cfu/100 mL) \a\     (cfu/100 mL) \a\    (cfu/100 mL) \a\
Enterococci--marine and fresh;           35                  130                  30                  110
E. coli--fresh................          126                  410                  100                 320
Duration and Frequency: The waterbody GM should not be greater than the selected GM magnitude in any 30-day
 interval. There should not be greater than a ten percent excursion frequency of the selected STV magnitude in
 the same 30-day interval.
\a\ EPA recommends using EPA Method 1600 (U.S. EPA, 2002a) to measure culturable enterococci, or another
  equivalent method that measures culturable enterococci and using EPA Method 1603 (U.S. EPA, 2002b) to measure
  culturable E. coli, or any other equivalent method that measures culturable E. coli.

    Dated: November 19, 2012.
Nancy K. Stoner,
Acting Assistant Administrator for Water.
[FR Doc. 2012-28909 Filed 11-28-12; 8:45 am]