[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 93 (Wednesday, May 14, 2014)]
[Pages 27601-27604]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-11080]



[EPA-HQ-OW-2004-0019; FRL-9910-86-OW]

External Peer Review Draft Aquatic Life Ambient Water Quality 
Criterion for Selenium--Freshwater 2014

AGENCY: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) recommended water 
quality criteria provide technical information for states and 
authorized tribes to adopt water quality standards under the Clean 
Water Act to protect human health. EPA is announcing the release of the 
External Peer Review Draft Aquatic Life Ambient Water Quality Criterion 
for Selenium--Freshwater 2014 (EPA-822-P-14-001) for public comment. 
Following closure of the public comment period, an EPA contractor will 
organize and conduct an independent expert external letter peer review 
of the draft criterion document. Public comments will be made available 
to the peer reviewers for consideration during their review. This 
external peer review draft criterion document does not represent and 
should not be construed to represent any final EPA policy, viewpoint, 
or determination.

DATES: The public comment period begins on May 14, 2014 and ends on 
June 13, 2014. Scientific views should be submitted to the public EPA 
docket by June 13, 2014. Scientific views postmarked after this date 
may not receive the same consideration.

ADDRESSES: Submit your scientific views, identified by Docket ID No. 
EPA-HQ-OW-2004-0019, by one of the following methods:
     www.regulations.gov: Follow the on-line 
instructions for submitting comments.
     Email: [email protected]. Attention Docket No. EPA-HQ-OW-
     Mail: EPA Water Docket, Environmental Protection Agency, 
Mailcode: 2822-IT, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW., Washington, DC 20460. 
Attention Docket No. EPA-HQ-OW-2004-0019. Please include a total of two 
copies (including references).
     Hand Delivery: EPA Water Docket, EPA Docket Center, 
William Jefferson Clinton West Building, Room 3334, 1301 Constitution 
Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20004, Docket No. EPA-HQ-OW-2004-0019. Such 
deliveries are only accepted during the Docket's normal hours of 
operation, and special arrangements should be made for deliveries of 
boxed information.
    Instructions: EPA's policy is that all comments received will be 
included in the public docket without change and may be made available 
online at www.regulations.gov, including any personal information 
provided, unless the comment includes information claimed to be 
Confidential Business Information (CBI) or other information whose 
disclosure is restricted by statute. Do not submit information that you 
consider to be CBI or otherwise protected through www.regulations.gov 
or email. The www.regulations.gov Web site is an ``anonymous access'' 
system, which means EPA will not know your identity or contact 
information unless you provide it in the body of your comment. If you 
send an email comment directly to EPA without going through 
www.regulations.gov your email address will be automatically captured 
and included as part of the comment that is placed in the public docket 
and made available on the Internet. If you submit an electronic 
comment, EPA recommends that you include your name and other contact 
information in the body of your comment and with any disk or CD-ROM you 
submit. If EPA cannot read your comment due to technical difficulties 
and cannot contact you for clarification, EPA may not be able to 
consider your comment. Electronic files should avoid the use of special 
characters, any form of encryption, and be free of any defects or 
viruses. For additional information about EPA's public docket visit the 
EPA Docket Center homepage at http://www.epa.gov/epahome/dockets.htm. 
For additional instructions on submitting comments, go to Section III 
of the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document.
    Docket: All documents in the docket are listed in the 
www.regulations.gov index. Although listed in the index, some 
information is not publicly available, e.g., CBI or other information 
whose disclosure is restricted by statute. Certain other material, such 
as copyrighted material, will be publicly available only in hard copy. 
Publicly available docket materials are available

[[Page 27602]]

either electronically in www.regulations.gov or in hard copy at the 
EPA-HQ-OW-2004-0019 Docket, EPA/DC, William Jefferson Clinton Building 
West, Room 3334, 1301 Constitution Ave. NW., Washington, DC. The Public 
Reading Room is open from 8:30 a.m. to 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 EPA 
Water Docket is (202) 566-2426.

of Water, Health and Ecological Criteria Division (4304T), 1200 
Pennsylvania Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20460; telephone: (202) 564-
1398; or email: [email protected].


I. What are recommended water quality criteria?

    EPA's recommended water quality criteria are scientifically derived 
numeric values that protect aquatic life or human health from the 
deleterious effects of pollutants in ambient water.
    Section 304(a)(1) of the Clean Water Act (CWA) requires EPA to 
develop and publish and, from time to time, revise, criteria for 
protection of water quality and human health that accurately reflect 
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.
    EPA's recommended Section 304(a) criteria provide technical 
information to states and authorized tribes in adopting water quality 
standards that ultimately provide a basis for assessing water body 
health and controlling discharges or releases of pollutants. Under the 
CWA and its implementing regulations, states and authorized tribes are 
to adopt water quality criteria to protect designated uses (e.g., 
public water supply, aquatic life, recreational use, or industrial 
use). EPA's recommended water quality criteria do not substitute for 
the CWA or regulations, nor are they regulations themselves. EPA's 
recommended criteria do not impose legally binding requirements. States 
and authorized tribes have the discretion to adopt, where appropriate, 
other scientifically defensible water quality criteria that differ from 
these recommendations.

II. What is selenium and why is EPA concerned about it?

    Selenium is a naturally occurring chemical element that is 
nutritionally essential in small amounts, but toxic at higher 
concentrations. Selenium can be released to the environment by a number 
of anthropogenic sources, such as coal mining, coal-fired power plants 
(fly ash), irrigated agriculture, and phosphate mining. Selenium is a 
bioaccumulative pollutant. Fish and other aquatic organisms are exposed 
and accumulate selenium primarily through their diet, and not directly 
through water. Selenium toxicity in fish occurs primarily through 
maternal transfer to the eggs and subsequent reproductive effects. 
Consequently, EPA is working on an update to its national recommended 
chronic aquatic life criterion for selenium in freshwater to reflect 
the latest scientific information, which indicates that selenium 
toxicity to aquatic life is primarily driven by organisms consuming 
selenium-contaminated food rather than by being directly exposed to 
selenium dissolved in water.

III. Information on the External Peer Review Draft Aquatic Life Ambient 
Water Quality Criterion for Selenium--Freshwater 2014

    EPA has prepared an external peer review draft aquatic life 
criterion document for selenium based on the latest scientific 
information and current EPA policies and methods, including EPA's 
Guidelines for Deriving Numerical National Water Quality Criteria for 
the Protection of Aquatic Organisms and Their Uses (1985) (EPA/R-85-
100) and Guidelines for Ecological Risk Assessment (1998) (EPA/630/R-
95/002F). Toxicity data and other information on the effects of 
selenium were obtained from reliable sources and subjected to both 
internal, and in some cases external, peer review. Public comments 
previously collected in response to EPA's 2004 notice of availability 
(published on December 17, 2004 at 69 FR 75541) and new toxicity data 
for selenium developed in response to those comments (EPA-822-F-08-005) 
were also considered in the development of the external peer review 
draft criterion document.
    The external peer review draft criterion has four elements, 
consisting of two fish tissue-based and two water column-based 
elements. The external peer review draft criterion document contains a 
recommendation that states and authorized tribes adopt into their water 
quality standards a selenium criterion that includes all four elements. 
The draft criterion document goes on to recommend that (because fish 
tissue-based concentration is a more direct measure of selenium 
toxicity to aquatic life than water column concentrations) fish tissue 
elements be given precedence over the water column elements when both 
types of data are available.
    The available data indicate that freshwater aquatic life would be 
protected from the toxic effects of selenium by applying the following 
four-element criterion:
    1. The concentration of selenium in the eggs or ovaries of fish 
does not exceed 15.2 mg/kg, dry weight; \1\
    2. The concentration of selenium (a) in whole-body of fish does not 
exceed 8.1 mg/kg dry weight, or (b) in muscle tissue of fish (skinless, 
boneless fillet) does not exceed 11.8 mg/kg dry weight; \2\
    3. The 30-day average concentration of selenium in water does not 
exceed 4.8 [micro]g/L in lotic (flowing) waters and 1.3 [micro]g/L in 
lentic (standing) waters more than once in three years on average; \3\
    4. The intermittent concentration of selenium in either a lentic or 
lotic water, as appropriate, does not exceed

more than once in three years on average.3 4

[[Page 27603]]


    The draft criterion document does not include a draft acute 
criterion (based on water-only exposure) because selenium is 
bioaccumulative and toxicity primarily occurs through dietary exposure. 
If there are rare instances where selenium sources could cause acute 
effects while attaining the chronic criterion concentrations, a 
pollution control authority could establish a site-specific acute 
criterion to protect from those effects.
    Following closure of the public comment period, a contractor will 
organize and lead an external expert peer review conducted by letter. 
The peer reviewers will have access to public comments received in the 
official public docket for this activity under docket ID number EPA-HQ-
OW-2004-0019. Following peer review, EPA will consider the peer 
reviewer and public comments, revise the document as necessary, and 
publish a Federal Register notice announcing the availability of the 
draft proposed selenium criterion and soliciting scientific views for 
30 days from the public. EPA will then revise the document again and 
issue a final updated selenium criterion document.

IV. What is the relationship between the external peer review draft 
water quality criterion and your state or tribal water quality 

    As part of the water quality standards triennial review process 
defined in section 303(c)(1) of the CWA, the states and authorized 
tribes are responsible for maintaining and revising water quality 
standards. Water quality standards consist of designated uses, water 
quality criteria to protect those uses, a policy for antidegradation, 
and may include general policies for application and implementation. 
Section 303(c)(1) requires states and authorized tribes to

[[Page 27604]]

review and modify, if appropriate, their water quality standards at 
least once every three years.
    States and authorized tribes must adopt water quality criteria that 
protect designated uses. Protective criteria are based on a sound 
scientific rationale and contain sufficient parameters or constituents 
to protect the designated uses. Criteria may be expressed in either 
narrative or numeric form. States and authorized tribes have four 
options when adopting water quality criteria for which EPA has 
published section 304(a) criteria. They can:
    (1) Establish numerical values based on recommended section 304(a) 
    (2) Adopt section 304(a) criteria modified to reflect site-specific 
    (3) Adopt criteria derived using other scientifically defensible 
methods; or
    (4) Establish narrative criteria where numeric criteria cannot be 
established or to supplement numerical criteria (40 CFR 131.11(b)).
    EPA believes that it is important for states and authorized tribes 
to consider any new or updated section 304(a) criteria as part of their 
triennial review to ensure that state or tribal water quality standards 
reflect current science and protect applicable designated uses. The 
recommendations in the external peer review draft selenium criterion 
document may change based on scientific views shared in response to 
this notice and those of the external peer reviewers. Upon 
finalization, the updated selenium criterion would supersede EPA's 
previous 304(a) freshwater criteria for selenium.
    Consistent with 40 CFR 131.21, new or revised water quality 
criteria adopted into law or regulation by states and authorized tribes 
on or after May 30, 2000 are in effect for CWA purposes only after EPA 

    Dated: May 6, 2014.
Nancy K. Stoner,
Acting Assistant Administrator, Office of Water.
[FR Doc. 2014-11080 Filed 5-13-14; 8:45 am]