Dr. Cindy Skrukrud
200 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 505
Chicago, IL 60601-5908
fax (312) 251-1780 firstname.lastname@example.org
State lacks water-quality standards for nutrients
monitoring efforts by the Illinois Chapter Water Sentinels have
documented clear problems with high phosphorus levels in Illinois
rivers. The chapter's data mirror that reported by the Illinois
Environmental Protection Agency in the 2002 Illinois Water Quality
Report where nutrients rank as the number one potential cause of
impairment with 3,082 miles of streams in Illinois listed as impaired
Failure to adequately address this problem is occurring at both
the state and national level, involving both nutrient standard development
and in cleanup plans for rivers impaired by nutrients. First, Illinois
has no water-quality standard for nutrients in streams, despite
the documented problems. Recognizing this failure by Illinois and
some other states, in 2000, U.S. EPA collected available scientific
research and recommended a "reference condition" for total
phosphorus and total nitrogen for each major region of the nation.
This "reference condition" is intended to reflect nutrient
concentrations in a healthy river or stream.
Illinois has formed a Nutrient Standards Development Committee but
progress has been slow, and Illinois was not planning on meeting
the original 2004 deadline set by USEPA for states to either adopt
the reference condition as a state water-quality standard or else
develop and justify a different proposal. Unfortunately, USEPA has
now backed off its original requirement. They are just requiring
states to file schedules soon for adopting standards, which now
may extend to 2007.
Without an Illinois water-quality standard for nutrients in place,
the Clean Water Act's Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) rule - triggering
the creation and implementation of a cleanup plan - is another avenue
to address nutrients problems in Illinois rivers. However, Illinois
has yet to complete its first TMDL and is entirely dependent on
federal pass-through money to fund completion of cleanup plans for
the 414 waterbodies on the draft 2002 list of impaired Illinois
waters for which a TMDL is required. Unfortunately, preliminary
reports from the US EPA indicate a revision to the TMDL rule will
soon be released that will weaken the rule.
Proposed changes will:
weaken standards for classifying waterbodies and allow
currently polluted waters to be defined as clean on paper;
permit states to rely upon speculative and unenforceable reductions
from nonpoint sources as a basis for classifying waters as "likely
to achieve" water quality standards, and therefore avoid doing
allow increased discharges from point sources based upon those
same speculative, unenforceable future reductions from nonpoint
curtail EPA's oversight of the states' implementation of this
vital program of the Clean Water Act.
EPA Administrator Christine Whitman should focus on ensuring that
the states properly implement the current TMDL program and that
they demonstrate steady progress in the development of water-quality
standards for nutrients.
Photo: Members of the media watch as Dick Barthel
collects a sample of Lake Michigan water. Photo by Jennifer Hensley.
Photo by Cindy Skrukrud. Photo of Cindy Skrukrud by Tom von Geldern.