New EPA Rule Leaves U.S. Waterways at Risk

Proposed pollution control standards fall short for construction and building sites
WASHINGTON (November 19, 2008) – In another blow to our nation’s waterways, the Bush Administration proposed a rule that would leave streams, rivers and lakes nationwide vulnerable to contamination by development and construction runoff, including metals and other toxic pollutants.  
The proposed EPA standards fail to require the construction and development industry to implement affordable and effective pollution control technologies to all their projects that would safeguard our nation’s waters against pollution. EPA has identified effective and affordable low-impact development technologies to prevent pollution, but does not require implementing them in this rule.
“Once again, EPA is heading down the wrong path by failing to protect our waterways from pollution,” said Melanie Shepherdson, staff attorney with the water program at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Some smart developers are already using low-impact approaches to reduce stormwater pollution. However most continue to pave over natural water filters and cut trees for development, permanently degrading local waterways."
When it rains, construction sites discharge tons of sediment, as well as toxic pollutants, such as metals and polyaromatic hydrocarbons that can severely contaminate local waterways. Also, the rapid conversion of land to urban and suburban areas has altered how water flows from storms.
“We welcome EPA’s efforts to finally propose to set objective standards for pollution control at construction sites,” said Jeffrey Odefey, Staff Attorney at the Waterkeeper Alliance. “It’s unfortunate, however, that they are only requiring the largest sites to meet the standards and ignored the advice of the best stormwater minds in the country and passed up this opportunity to address the permanent harm development causes after construction is over.” 
Last month, an EPA-convened panel at the National Research Council released a report supporting the use of low impact development to prevent water pollution. But the agency’s proposed rule does not reflect the council’s recommendations or its own priorities.
  • It will not require the use of technologies that are affordable and reduce the discharge of metals and other toxic pollutants, missing an opportunity to prevent water pollution.
  • It will not require any control of ongoing water pollution after construction is completed, which is the largest source of environmental harm.
  • It fails to set a measurable and enforceable standard for most construction and development sites.