TCEQ Developing New Temperature Screening Procedures for Wastewater Discharge Permitting
Last Thursday, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) convened a stakeholder meeting to discuss how it plans to ensure compliance with the temperature criteria in the Texas Surface Water Quality Standards through the wastewater discharge permitting process. The updated “implementation procedures” shared by TCEQ at the meeting, when finalized, could result in TCEQ adding permit conditions to existing wastewater discharge permits.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and delegated state agencies regulate
industrial wastewater discharges. In Texas, the TCEQ maintains state
water quality by implementing the Texas Surface Water Quality Standards,
including thermal (temperature) limitations, through issuance of wastewater
discharge permits under a program called the Texas Pollutant Discharge
Elimination System (TPDES).
In 2010, EPA began
objecting to TCEQ’s issuance of TPDES permits that contained thermal limits in
excess of applicable thermal criteria. EPA ultimately agreed to withhold
its objections in exchange for TCEQ agreeing to develop screening procedures for
thermal limits in TPDES permits, and to include a TPDES permit condition
requiring permittees to submit plans for characterizing thermal plumes from
discharges. TCEQ has included such a condition in wastewater discharge
permits, and permittees have been filing plume characterization studies, but
permittees have generally been unaware of what would come next regarding
wastewater permitting consequences.
At last Thursday’s
meeting, TCEQ shared an updated draft of the procedures it will use to address
the temperature criteria in the Texas Surface Water Quality Standards in the
permitting process. The updates reflect TCEQ’s responses to EPA concerns
with an earlier draft of the procedures. TCEQ announced that it plans to
formally publish the updated procedures for public comment on August 31, hold a
follow-up stakeholder meeting in early October, and send a final draft to EPA
in late October, and then implement the procedures thereafter – contingent on
the timing and substance of EPA feedback.
tuned for more updates.