For the first time, ADEQ has opened the Assessment Methodology up for public participation and review. Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission Regulation No. 2 outlines the water quality standards for the state which outlines the expectations for a waterbody. These expectations, or criteria, are defined by narrative explanations (e.g., "materials stimulating algal growth shall not be present in concentrations sufficient to cause objectionable algal densities...") or numeric thresholds which defined limits for specific chemical parameters. When assessing the quality of our state waters every two years, as required by the Clean Water Act, states evaluate water quality data and information from a set time period to determine if waters are meeting standards. The Assessment Methodology outlines an objective approach for determining whether narrative explanations, which are subjective in nature, are being met. Also, the Assessment Methodology also defines how data will be evaluated (e.g., grouped by season, in combination with other factors, etc.) and sets the number of times standards can be violated before determining a waterbody should be listed as impaired.
The impaired waterbodies list (aka 303(d) list) is utilized in determining which waterbodies need additional regulatory action to address concerns and ranks sites in order of priority. The 303(d) list is incorporated into a formal report, that summarizes the condition of all waters within a state, and is submitted to Congress every two years. Adequately characterizing the health of our rivers, streams, and lakes is not only a necessary exercise for determining where better pollution controls or restoration activities are needed, but it is also crucial in relaying information to our legislative body so needs for appropriating funding to address water quality can be properly considered.
Since states are not required to open their Assessment Methodologies up for public participation, we have a unique opportunity to provide thoughtful comments and to gain understanding in controversial or lacking methodologies. Not only is ADEQ accepting feedback, but they have stated they will also be responding to comments. If responses thoroughly address concerns and provide a rationale for decisions, the level of transparency that will be offered through this process will be highly commendable and a major step forward in the ongoing efforts to protect water quality.
Written input should be delivered or mailed to: Mary Barnett, Water Planning, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, 5301 Northshore Drive, North Little Rock, AR 72118. Email input should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments will be considered if received no later than 4:30 p.m. (Central Time) November 13, 2017.
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