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New Clean Water Act Rulemaking Affects NPDES Permit Program

Posted on 5/28/2014 by Anthony R. Cardno

On May 19, 2014, EPA signed a final rule establishing requirements for cooling water intake structures (CWIS) at certain existing facilities. The new rule also amends some requirements for facilities already subject to regulation for their cooling water intake structures. EPA has made available a pre-publication version of the rule until the rule is published in the Federal Register.
 
These new and amended requirements will be implemented under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program. While NPDES permitting is focused on discharges to waters of the United States, Section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act also “require[s] that the location, design, construction, and capacity of cooling water intake structures reflect the best technology available for minimizing adverse environmental impact.”
 
Who Is Subject to the New Rule?
 
The new rule largely focuses on existing power-generating facilities and existing manufacturing and industrial facilities (including, but not limited to, petroleum refineries; chemical manufacturing plants; pulp and paper mills; iron, steel, and aluminum manufacturing; and food processing) with cooling water intake structures that are designed to:
 
  • Withdraw more than 2 million gallons of water per day (mgd) from waters of the United States, and
  • Use at least 25 percent of that water exclusively for cooling purposes.
Facilities with cooling water intake structures that do not meet the 2 mgd threshold may also be subject to permitting on a case-by-case basis as determined by the NPDES Permit Director using Best Professional Judgement (BPJ).
 
An existing facility is any facility that does not meet the definition of “new facility” in 40 CFR 125.83. That regulation defines a “new facility” as any facility that meets the definition of “new source” [40 CFR 122.2], which commenced construction after January 17, 2002 and which uses either a newly constructed CWIS or has increased the capacity of an existing CWIS to intake additional cooling water. 
 
Cooling Water Intake Structures
 
The new rule defines a cooling water intake structure as “the total physical structure and any associated constructed waterways used to withdraw cooling water from waters of the United States. The cooling water intake structure extends from the point at which water is first withdrawn from waters of the United States source up to, and including, the intake pumps.”
 
The new rule also defines cooling water as “water used for contact or noncontact cooling, including water used for equipment cooling, evaporative cooling tower makeup, and dilution of effluent heat content” and clarifies that cooling water is water intended to absorb waste heat.
 
Purpose of the Rule
 
The focus of the new rule is on reducing the effects of impingement and entrainment on fish populations in particular and the water body’s ecosystem in general. 
 
  • Impingement means the entrapment of all life stages of fish and shellfish on the outer part of an intake structure or against a screening device during periods of intake water withdrawal.
  • Entrainment means the incorporation of all life stages of fish and shellfish with intake water flow entering and passing through a cooling water intake structure and into a cooling water system.
Requirements
 
The new requirements apply to the location, design, construction, and capacity of cooling water intake structures at covered facilities, including:
 
  • Best Technology Available (BTA) to address impingement, which includes a national performance standard along with six alternatives that are equivalent to or better than the performance standard;
  • Site-specific determinations of BTA to mitigate entrainment, and
  • BTA standards for new units at existing facilities similar to the rules for new facilities found in 40 CFR 125, Subpart I.
The new rule for NPDES permits for cooling water intake structures will be effective 60 days after the date of publication in the Federal Register.
 
Training for Current and Future EHS Experts at Your Site
 
Feel confident that you’re up to date with the latest water, air, and chemical programs that affect your facility. Knowing your legal obligations under the EPA’s major regulations is critical—missing even one environmental mandate can lead to costly fines and penalties, releases, and future liability. The hands-on Complete Environmental Regulations Workshop is designed for both new and experienced EHS professionals. Interaction with other EHS professionals from your area and real-world exercises help you understand how these complex sets of laws and regulations apply to your facility—and how to make the right decisions for your business. 

Tags: Act, Clean, EPA, new rules, Water

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