The Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies (AMSA) and member agency the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (DC WASA) filed a joint amicus brief recently in the D.C. Circuit Court case, Friends of the Earth (FoE) v. EPA, in which citizen groups assert that total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) — discharge limits developed under the Clean Water Act — must be expressed in 24-hour daily load form.
According to the two groups, a ruling in favor of FoE would have adverse implications, most notably precluding the implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) combined sewer overflow (CSO) policy — a plan designed to improve water quality nationwide.
AMSA's brief highlights the fact that under EPA regulations, TMDLs may be expressed in any form appropriate to the pollutant of concern – including in monthly, seasonal, or annual loads and points out that FoE's contention that TMDLs must be expressed in the form of a 24-hour load is in direct conflict with Clean Water Act provisions incorporating EPA's 1994 CSO Control Policy.
FoE's assertion could effectively undermine CSO control planning across the country. For example, DC WASA's long term CSO control plan, which will reduce the average volume of CSO discharges to the Anacostia River by 97.5 percent, would be a casualty of a pro-FoE ruling. WASA has already demonstrated its commitment to curbing overflows by investing millions of dollars in the development of its control plan and having committed to an estimated capital cost of $1.265 billion in 2001 dollars.
Ken Kirk, AMSA's Executive Director, states that "as our brief points out, TMDLs expressed as 24-hour loads would require complete separation of the District's combined sewer system, which is neither economically nor technically feasible and would in fact provide less water quality benefit to the Anacostia River. FoE's position also could disrupt the efforts of the nearly 800 cities nationwide to comply with the Clean Water Act's CSO provisions."