EPA nod to TMDLs in Cape Cod, Nantucket ignores climate change impact: CFL

Association of Construction and Development
February 27, 2014 — 1,382 views  

An organization called, Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), which focuses on protecting New England’s environment, has filed a law suit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over the latter’s violation of Clean Water Act. The CLF has alleged that the EPA’s nod to the total amount of optimal nitrogen load allowed daily into Nantucket and Cape Cod water bodies did not take climate change impact into consideration. A TDML (Total Maximum Daily Load) is the maximum quantity of a certain pollutant that water bodies can receive and still meet safe water standards.

The CLF had made identical claims against the EPA in 2010 as well, but this time, in its complaint filed in 2013, the CLF has cited a paper published in 2002 and co-authored by EPA’s scientist James Titus. Quoting the paper, the CLF said that a changed cycle of nitrogen conversion could make an impact on estuaries. It points out that climate change could make estuaries more vulnerable to changes in sea level or temperature variations.

Substantiating data

The present complaint notes that data patterns from Cape Cod bay monitoring locations show that there is an increase in surrounding temperature in line with or higher than forecasts mentioned in climate change-related write-ups by EPA scientists or other sources. The agency was in possession of these write-ups and was aware of its contents during the approval of TMDLs, claims CFL. The CFL also adds that improper and arbitrary approval would harm the waters of the region.

The U.S. District Court had dismissed the CFL charges because it felt the Foundation did not have the standing to challenge the EPA’s approval. The Foundation then filed fresh action against the EPA and tried to present a well-articulated claim this time.

Point source or nonpoint source?

When the case was first filed in 2010, the focus was on how the EPA labels the nutrient pollution sources in the waters of Cape Cod, especially the nitrogen in waste water that flows in. The CLF had emphasized that septic systems be categorized under ‘point source’, where pollution comes from a specific point such as a pipe. This falls under the EPA’s regulations, the CFL added. The EPA, on the other hand, says septic systems are ‘nonpoint sources’, which would mean they are not specific, and are under the jurisdiction of the state. The court had noted that merely re-categorizing the sources would not make a difference to the amount of nitrogen that was permitted to flow into the embayments.

Association of Construction and Development