The change to state water quality standards rules provides greater flexibility in Missouri’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit program.
The state's regulations previously allowed no more than three years for a permittee to come into compliance with its NPDES permit.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources submitted proposed changes, allowing longer than three years, to EPA in December for review and approval. The decision to approve the changes was recently announced.
John Delashmit, chief of water quality management for EPA’s Region 7 in Kansas City, says treatment plants were having difficulty attaining low levels of nutrients in the time period allowed under the old rules.
"A prime example--nitrogen and phosphorous pollution. We're trying to get to some really low levels, and current technology just doesn't get you there. So, the EPA's federal regulation requires in a compliance schedule that the permittee come into compliance as soon as possible. The state had that same requirement, but the state had a three year upper bound on that. In other words, they couldn't give a permittee greater than three years to come into compliance," he said.
According to Delashmit, getting to the required low levels of nutrients is going to take some facilities longer than three years.
The new rules allow the treatment plants to come into compliance as soon as possible.
So, how does the EPA make sure facilities continue to work toward compliance under the new, no upper boundary regulation?
DeLashmit says there are ways to do that.
"One of the things the EPA suggests and I think the state also uses is, when you're looking at time to come into compliance, they establish periodic milestones where the permittee can report back to the state its progress, and we keep track of the progress toward compliance," he said.
According to the EPA’s Regional Administrator Karl Brooks, Missouri’s facilities are developing new approaches and technologies that require some flexibility in the permit program, and he says this new rule will encourage both innovation and compliance.
This story originally aired as part of Business Beat, a weekly program about business and economics in mid-Missouri.