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Pollution Budget Tips from Across the Country

Posted on Tuesday, July 16th, 2019 | Posted in News

Learn from the relative abundance of different microscopic algae species.

Enlist a local civic group to help with your public outreach.

Promote the use of liquid anti-icing agents.

All of these pointers were offered by speakers in a national webinar series about pollution-load calculations and related implementation plans.

Anti-icing, applied here only in the left lane, is the practice of applying salt as a brine or other form before a storm event. It can prevent ice from bonding to pavement and can dramatically increase salt use efficiency. From webinar 3/1/2018. DUPAGE RIVER SALT CREEK WORKGROUP

For decades states, territories, and tribes have been developing pollution-reduction goals for water bodies that aren’t meeting their intended uses. These total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) satisfy a provision of the Clean Water Act.

There is endless variability in the science that goes into the calculation of these TMDLs, and in their implementation.

Since 2016, this NEIWPCC webinar series has provided an opportunity for state-agency staff and other environmental professionals to share on-the-job discoveries with their counterparts across the country.

Tapping Local Knowledge

In May, Dr. Karen Kline, a research scientist at Virginia Tech, delivered a presentation about engaging stakeholders in the development of the implementation plan for a TMDL.

“Outreach and how you advertise [the] first public meeting is very important,” Kline said. She recommended asking a civic group such as Rotary International or a local watershed association to help.

“They are the ones that are going to have networking throughout the community and know how to get people engaged,” she said.

According to Kline, practitioners should reach out to the following groups for help identifying the best pollution-management practices for a particular watershed:

  • a soil and water conservation district or other entity that will award grants for implementation projects
  • those affected by the water quality problem
  • those who contribute to the water quality problem
  • those with statutory or regulatory water quality responsibilities
  • regional environmental planners
  • city and/or county departments as relevant to the pollutant
  • those who will develop and implement remedial actions
  • those who live in the watershed and/or use the water

Cooperative extension programs, she said, have county agents. “They most likely know the local landowners in the watershed.” This is especially helpful when the TMDL is for a nonpoint source pollutant, which may be best addressed by green infrastructure or natural buffers in a watershed, including on private property.

Smarter Salting

In another webinar, Stephen McCracken, the director of watershed protection at a nonprofit near Chicago, described a large-scale initiative to reduce pollution from road salt (starting at 31:50).

McCracken praised anti-icing, the practice of applying salt as a brine or other form before a storm event.

“Studies have shown that if you can prevent the ice from bonding to the pavement,” McCracken said, “you can make a 75 to 85 percent reduction in the amount of salt that you use [compared with] trying to use salt afterwards to break that bond.”

Identifying a Cause

Of the ten webinars in the series so far, six have addressed implementation of TMDLs. Others described other aspects of TMDL development.

For example, in one webinar a speaker from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection described the agency’s process for identifying phosphorus as a cause of aquatic-life impairment. The method involves monitoring the relative abundance of microalgae in streams.

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection monitors species of diatoms (a kind of microalgae) to estimate trends in concentrations of phosphorus. Webinar, 11/20/2018. CT DEEP

Because TMDLs are calculated to address a particular pollutant that is causing impairment, the cause must be identified first.

National Interest

NEIWPCC consults with a planning team to select topics and speakers. The planning team includes personnel from state agencies across the country, multiple EPA regions, and staff from the Association of Clean Water Administrators and the Environmental Law Institute.

The webinars have been popular, with many drawing more than 50 participants. Upcoming webinars in the series will cover other aspects of successful engagement of stakeholders, including social media and data visualization.

iWR • July 2019 • To front page

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