Great Lakes: EPA’s window on the world

TOLEDO — How does the Environmental Protection Agency water quality office see the world?



According to Diane Regas, deputy assistant administrator for the office, the world has gotten better due to EPA efforts, but it still has some ways to go to meet the standards that have been set.



Regas was the luncheon speaker for the Great Lakes 2000 Symposium May 31.



Can water ever be “clean enough,” or will standards continue to be raised each time they are approached. Regas pointed to the “end use” for water and the standards that Congress originally defined.



“We have to look at each situation, take into account end uses for any particular area,” she said, “Is the goal to make the water swimmable and fishable, or is it to be used as a drinking water supply.”



“Then, based on sound science, we do what we have to to meet those goals.”



She said as the science begins to settle down, standards will begin to change less over time than they have in the past.



“And I don’t think they are going to go only in one direction,” she said.



Regas pointed out in her summary of “how we are doing as a nation,” that in 1972 — the year closest to the Clean Water Act that offers the best data — two-thirds of the nation’s water did not meet the basic Clean Water Act standard of swimmable/fishable.



Although things have gotten much better, Regas said one-third of the water still does not meet that standard.



Regas sees TMDL as an important tool for getting some watersheds restored.



“When you have a pollution budget, and you know where the pollution comes from, then you can determine what reductions are needed to meet the goal.



“When you know the point source of pollution,” she said, “regulations make good sense.



“For non point source pollution, no one has yet figured out a way to make that work.”



For information on land use, soil erosion and soil quality, water quality, wetlands and other conservation issues, see www.nhq.nrcs.usda.gov/land/home.html

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