Introduction

Healthy water systems require water that is clean and free of harmful contaminants. We also need enough water in our rivers and streams to allow fish and other aquatic life to thrive. Both measures - quality and quantity - are important to achieving healthy waters that we use for recreation, fishing and swimming and that support life for other plants and animals on which we depend. The surface and groundwater section of the Environmental Progress Report addresses both the water quality and water quantity goals of our water protection programs.

Set water quality standards

Summary:

Indicator: Are we current with water quality standards?

Why is this important?
All Massachusetts waters must have a goal of being of sufficient quality to be suitable for swimming and fishing. In addition to having swimming and fishing as designated uses, some waters are designated as drinking water and others as suitable for shell fishing. Having up-to-date water quality standards helps MassDEP ensure that our waters will be of sufficient quality to meet the designated uses and that the standards are protective of public health and aquatic habitat consistent with the latest science.

How are we doing?
EPA requires the states to review and update their Surface Water Quality Standards (WQS) every three years. In the past, MassDEP, along with many other states, has not met this timeline. In FY07, MassDEP promulgated revised standards based on public comments gathered during the review process. The public process to review our water quality standards provides a forum for public input into the standard setting process. Even when no significant changes result, the interaction improves communication between MassDEP and the public. MassDEP is waiting for EPA approval of the final revisions to the Surface Water Quality Standards, as well as the Antidegradation Implementation Procedures. MassDEP plans to work with EPA to obtain federal approval early in FFY08. MassDEP's most recent revisions are expected to result in improved protection of the Commonwealth's surface waters. Any delays in this review process has not compromised water quality in Massachusetts.

In FFY08 MassDEP will issue guidance relative to the new standards changes for bacteria and will review existing policies to identify any needed changes as a result of the regulatory changes just made.

Workplan:

What's behind the numbers: In 2006, the Bureau of Resource Protection (BRP) promulgated revisions to the Massachusetts' surface water quality standards. Those changes have now been submitted to EPA for review and approval. In FY 2008, BRP will be working directly with EPA to obtain final approval of both the Surface Water Quality Standards and Antidegradation Implementation Procedures. BRP will also review policy changes resulting from the revised standards.

Maintaining Strong Performance
These revisions included several improvements along with an update of the state's Antidegradation Implementation Procedures.

  • Site-specific criteria - provisions are added that clarify MassDEP's existing authority to establish site-specific criteria. MassDEP's previous authority as set forth in the Standards primarily pertained to nutrients. The new language is not limited to nutrients. These determinations of site-specific criteria may be made in the context of a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) or pursuant to other scientific studies. This ensures that the best and most relevant science is used in setting water quality standards. MassDEP also adopted site specific criteria for numerous waters.
  • Bacteria criteria - Several scientific studies have demonstrated that e. Coli and Enterococci are better indicators of potential human health effects resulting from recreation than coliform. The Standards were revised to adopt these as indicators for recreational uses, the most significant source of human contact, consistent with guidance and regulations issued by EPA and regulations issued by the Department of Public Health (DPH) for bathing beaches. Fecal criteria were maintained for unfiltered public water supplies, consistent with the Safe Drinking Water Act, and for designated shell-fishing areas, consistent with FDA requirements.
  • Temperature criteria - Language was added to clarify that relative to Sec. 316(a) thermal variances, alternative effluent limits must be revisited with permit renewal and the permittee must demonstrate that alternative limitations remain protective. Also added, the provision for a 316(a) waiver for thermal discharges to be allowed for Class B and Class C fresh waters.
  • TMDLs - Language was included to clarify MassDEP's authority to develop TMDLs.

Improving Results
The Bureau is continuing its effort to develop either numeric nutrient criteria to replace, or a translator to interpret, the current narrative language. Either approach is expected to make it easier for MassDEP to determine if a discharge limit is protective enough. The revision also will establish a more clear and predictable pathway to ensure that waters are not impaired.

Detailed Work Plans

  • Work with EPA to obtain federal approval of the State Surface Water Quality Standards and Antidegradation Implementation Procedures.
  • Finalize and issue a guidance entitled "Guidance on Implementation of New Primary Contact Recreation Bacteria Guidance".
  • Re-evaluate and if needed, update existing policies such as the thermal discharge policy, to reflect the approved water quality standards revisions.
  • Continue to identify and review additional issues and possible revisions related to the water quality standards including the advisability of adopting EPA's recommended criteria for dissolved oxygen in marine waters.

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Know condition of surface & groundwaters

Summary:

Indicator: Percent of state's waters assessed where the cause/source of impairment is known

Why is this important?
Monitoring the condition of our waters allows us to know where problems exist and where we need to direct our attention. Sampling across the full spectrum of Massachusetts' waters helps MassDEP determine how widespread known problems are (e.g., nutrient pollution, mercury contamination) and also helps identify previously unknown problems. Sampling at the same locations over time tells us whether actions we take to address problems are working. MassDEP targets clean water areas as those that are critical to preserve and to ensure degradation does not occur.

How are we doing?
MassDEP conducts monitoring and performs assessments on a small portion of Massachusetts' surface waters now. To make the best use of the limited monitoring capacity available, MassDEP focuses on areas where problems may exist, which is primarily in larger rivers. The surface water monitoring program now rotates through a five-year cycle, so water is sampled in approximately 20% of the state's watersheds each year. The waterbodies that are not sampled are tributaries and smaller rivers and most of the state's marine areas (including estuaries, coastal areas where fresh and salt water meet, and near coastal waters). During the last few years, MassDEP has tried to expand the monitoring program to assess many of the smaller streams and to conduct more marine monitoring and source identification work. This level of monitoring, although increased, is still not sufficient to address all of the waters of the Commonwealth.

Although MassDEP hopes that the most severe problems have been identified, we cannot determine the full extent of the pollution issues nor can we identify the subbasins where problems are most acute. Attempts have been made to expand the information base by working with citizen volunteers and other entities interested in water quality and by finding other means to gather more information.

In 2004 MassDEP conducted a needs analysis and developed a " Water Quality Monitoring Strategy for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts ". The Plan discussed and evaluated different types of monitoring needed to fill important information gaps and identified resource gaps and monitoring priorities. The Strategy is being used to help support the need for additional monitoring personnel. Recent accomplishments have included hiring regional monitoring coordinators in three (3) of MassDEP's regional offices, and implementation of a program to begin development of a monitoring protocol for wetlands assessment made possible with EPA funding. However more needs to be done. The goal is to address the gaps within 10 years. MassDEP does not currently have any comprehensive data on the condition of the state's groundwaters, although there is data on a number of individual locations. Gathering this data to see what picture it presents of the state's groundwater quality is something MassDEP needs to do as resources become available.

Workplan:

What's behind the numbers: Massachusetts has assessed 67% of the lake area, 9% of marine waters, and 26% of river miles in the State for one or more designated uses, as described in the Surface Water Quality Standards [Data from the Final 2004 Integrated List] (see below).

Uses that are assessed include recreational uses such as primary contact recreation (swimming) and secondary contact recreation (boating, fishing, etc.), aquatic life support (survival and propagation of fish and other aquatic organisms), and fish consumption (ability to eat the fish). The data reflects water bodies assessed for at least one use. Not all water bodies are assessed for all of the designated uses. For waters not assessed, there is no data on their present condition so the extent to which the waters may be impaired or failing to meet designated uses is not known.

The relatively high percentage of lakes assessed reflects the generally rapid approach (synoptic surveys) of assessment used for lakes. Synoptic surveys are screening level surveys conducted during one day to determine the overall condition of the waterbody.

Although the percentage of river miles assessed is low, historically there are targeted assessment resources for larger rivers and streams, which are expected to be more likely impacted by pollution sources. While MassDEP cannot say definitively that the unassessed rivers and streams are better quality than the waters we do assess, we focus our monitoring on waters expected to be of poorer quality. Over the last few years a conscious effort has been made to assess waters previously not evaluated.

The present data on marine waters are primarily bacteria data collected by the Division of Marine Fisheries for shellfish bed safety, although a significant amount of data have been collected over the last several years to assess the condition of estuaries in Southeastern MA as part of the Massachusetts Estuaries Project (MEP).

Waters that are assessed are evaluated against the Surface Water Quality Standards for relevant designated uses and ranked as to whether they support those uses or not. For the assessed waters and uses, that evaluation is described here.

The following table presents the % of each waterbody type that fully meets the referenced designated use.

DesignationLakesMarineRivers
Aquatic Life1.9%2.6%10.9%
Fish Consumption10%0%0%
ShellfishingNA3.1%NA
Primary contact recreation (swimming)2.6%5.3%5.9%
Secondary contact recreation (boating)49.7%5.8%7.6%
Aesthetics48.8%2.8%13.5%

1 In some cases we know that the biology is impaired but the exact cause is not known.

Where waters are impaired, the first step to solving the problem is knowing the cause of the impairment, followed by quantifying and then eliminating causes for the impairment (e.g., low dissolved oxygen or excess nutrients or presence of mercury). Here MassDEP's information regarding the cause of impairments is extensive.

Having identified a cause, the obvious next step is to look for the source of the problem. For example, if high levels of bacteria are found, the most common sources are failing septic systems, combined sewer overflows, stormwater discharges, urban runoff, or wildlife. Although the source of the problem has been identified in many cases, for a significant number of impaired waters this critical information is lacking.

Analyses of the data indicate that:

  1. Most surface waters in the Commonwealth have not been assessed for one or more uses. These waters are primarily on 1st to 3rd order streams (i.e., the smaller tributary streams) and in estuarine areas.
  2. The most frequently identified causes of impairments are pathogens and nutrient-related indicators such as organic loading and turbidity.
  3. In waters that have been assessed the principal causes of impairments are known but the sources are largely unidentified.

Maintaining Strong Performance
Although the above data demonstrate that adequate information has not been gathered on the condition of certain water bodies or that all sources of observed impairments are known, there are a number of areas in which MassDEP does have strong performance that will be maintained.

Assessment Monitoring:
The strongest monitoring program is the assessment of mainstem rivers and major tributaries. Historically, monitoring programs were designed to monitor waters near discharges from large point sources such as industrial and municipal sewage treatment plants, which typically discharge into mainstem rivers and major tributaries. Assessment of these major water bodies is important because they are heavily used and can reveal the cumulative effects of many contributing sources. In recent years, particularly with the knowledge that nonpoint sources can be major contributors to pollution problems, this program has begun to expand into previously unassessed waters in order to increase, both temporally and spatially, the percent coverage of assessed waters. While MassDEP will expand coverage in the future, there is still the need to maintain monitoring of the larger rivers.

Biomonitoring:
MassDEP's biomonitoring program is a powerful tool for assessing aquatic life uses. This program focuses primarily on benthic macroinvertebrates, fish community analysis, habitat assessment, fish toxics, and algal abundance and species composition. This information is of critical importance because these biological groups can integrate environmental conditions (chemical - including nutrients and toxics, and physical - including flow and water temperature) over an extended period of time. The status of the living components of a water's ecosystem - e.g., the fish and the invertebrate populations - is an excellent measure of the water body's health. Studying the living populations provides information on both chronic and acute effects of pollution and other causes of impairments that are difficult to detect and to measure other ways. Although MassDEP cannot conduct as much biomonitoring as needed, it is important to at least maintain this as a powerful tool in the assessment capacity.

Bacteria Source Tracking:
During the last three years MassDEP has piloted and instituted a bacteria source-tracking program. This program was designed to seek sources of bacterial contamination where ambient data has indicated a potential source. The program targets specific geographic areas and small watersheds and uses GIS land use information followed by targeted bacteria sampling to zero in on potential sources. Once the source is identified MassDEP works with local communities to conduct further "up-the-pipe" surveillance to identify the specific source of contamination. Since FY05 MassDEP has hired regional monitoring coordinators in the Western, Southeastern, and Northeast Regions to focus additional efforts in this area.

Quality Assurance:
The quality of data from our monitoring program is at its highest level ever due to recent improvements in sampling procedures and data validation. Because the monitoring data is used for many important purposes, from setting policy to issuing permits to targeting inspections, the data needs to be of reliable quality. Therefore, MassDEP needs to continue to ensure that necessary quality assurance and quality control procedures are being implemented, such as following Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for monitoring, developing annual sampling Quality Assurance Project Plans (QAPPs), training of all personnel actively participating in field monitoring, and coordinating with the Wall Experiment Station. The Division of Watershed Management (DWM) has developed a 5-year QAPP and SOPs that govern the overall monitoring program and individual watershed sampling plans each year. As MassDEP comes to rely more on data from volunteer organizations to supplement our knowledge of water conditions, we need to ensure that these groups are adhering to the quality assurance practices to ensure that the data they are providing can reliably be used for decision-making. The Division of Watershed Management (DWM) also reviews QAPPs for non-MassDEP groups to ensure the highest data quality objectives are achieved.

Assessment Report Development:
Before monitoring data can be used to guide agency decision-making, it needs to be communicated effectively. MassDEP has produced water quality assessment reports that provide comprehensive, user-friendly summaries, by watershed, of available information relating to water quality. These documents also include recommendations for implementation activities needed within the watersheds to improve water quality, as well as monitoring that is needed to fill information gaps. The water quality assessment reports have also been made available to a wider audience via publication on the MassDEP website and the assessments can be readily linked to GIS data layers. Assessment decisions made in the water quality assessment reports are the foundation for MassDEP's listing determinations, including those waters appearing on the 303(d) List of Impaired Waters.

All of the above programs are critical to knowing the condition of the state's surface waters and will be continued in FY08 and subsequent years. MassDEP has now completed at least one water quality assessment report for each watershed in the Commonwealth. As the next round of assessments for the Blackstone, Chicopee, Connecticut and Nashua drainages begins MassDEP is re-evaluating the process and format used for reporting on the assessments in an effort to complete them in a more timely manner.

The information gathered by the various programs described here allows for better decision-making and provides reliable information used for the purposes of controlling both point and non-point sources of pollution, preventing water quality degradation, and restoring degraded waters.

Improving results
Development of a Comprehensive Monitoring Program:
As the above data demonstrates, there is limited information about the condition of many of the waters of the state. Even for waters known to be impaired, the source of the problem is often unknown. As a result, MassDEP cannot be sure that the most significant problems have been identified and sometimes we cannot determine what actions will improve waters that we know are impaired. While the strategies to protect and improve the state's waters are based on good, if limited, information, as well as reasonable judgment about what is most likely to be responsible for observed problems, these data gaps are significant and need to be addressed.

While additional resources invested in getting information about the condition of state waters is necessary, steps are being taken to improve information collection within MassDEP's current budget. These actions include the development of a statewide comprehensive monitoring strategy (the Strategy) that addresses the EPA's recommended "ten elements of a state monitoring program," sampling in all types of water bodies (including streams, lakes, and marine waters), collaborating with volunteer monitors, and using data and information from other agencies. The overall plan evaluates five recommended types of monitoring:

  • Assessment monitoring -Watershed-based, statewide water quality assessments to provide a periodic assessment of the water quality status of the Commonwealth's surface waters, as required by Section 305(b) of the Clean Waters Act; currently implemented on a 5-year, rotating-watershed basis;
  • Plans for improving impaired waters (TMDLs)- Monitoring designed and conducted to develop and implement Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for specific water bodies to identify the actions necessary to achieve water quality standards.
  • Compliance monitoring - Monitoring designed to determine if regulated sources are complying with their regulatory requirements and permits.
  • Targeted monitoring - Monitoring to determine causes and sources of impairments, to identify pollution sources or "hot-spots," and other site-specific objectives (such as determining background levels of pollution, or existing water quality conditions needed for the issuance of discharge permits, Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) upgrades, or implementation of BMPs for stormwater control, or documenting and assessing habitat loss or alteration).
  • Loadings and Trends - Monitoring to determine loads of contaminants carried by major rivers in Massachusetts at strategic locations, such as at the mouths of major rivers and at state boundaries, and to determine long-term trends in concentrations and loads of those contaminants. These data are used to determine whether conditions are getting better or worse and to evaluate the effectiveness of our strategies to improve water quality.

Although some of this data are being collected now, the amount and extent of coverage is clearly insufficient. The Strategy identifies a need of approximately 51 monitoring and support staff. This reflects an existing shortfall of 33 staff needed to fully implement all portions of the monitoring program, including additional support necessary for analytical services at the Wall Experiment Station (WES). The monitoring strategy provides a recommended approach and prioritizes monitoring needs for creative use of available resources to address the gaps between what is known and what is minimally needed to protect the waters of the Commonwealth.

As previously noted, MassDEP has recently hired regional monitoring coordinators to conduct bacteria source tracking activities. The goal in FY08 is to expand the regional capabilities beyond bacteria source tracking into other potential areas such as a statewide fixed-site network for determining statewide trends and loadings. In FY08, DWM will conduct an analysis of what resources are needed to implement a fixed-site network statewide and what additional roles the regional monitoring staff can play in the future.

Data Management:
Translation of data into a form for use by the DWM analysts and other groups continues to be delayed. Improvement of current data systems was begun when MassDEP hired a contractor to evaluate the existing data management systems, to recommend upgrades, and to build a new system (Water Resources Attribute Tracking System, or WRATS). Delays in this project have ensued and a new contractor will be hired to complete the project. In the interim the DWM will continue to use current data systems to meet data management needs. Completion of WRATS is scheduled for FY09.

The EPA has indicated that in the future they will be requiring all monitoring data to be uploaded into their STORET database system. MassDEP is participating in a project to develop the pathways necessary to import data into STORET through the Water Quality Exchange Network (WQX).

EPA will also be requiring states to submit assessment decisions and the Integrated List of Waters via its Assessment Database (ADB) in the future. An additional data management staff person has been hired to install this data management tool in Massachusetts. Partial implementation of the ADB will likely occur during FY08 with full implementation for subsequent reporting cycles.

Assessment Monitoring Program:
As the indicator data presented above demonstrates, MassDEP must increase the overall percentage of the state's waters that are assessed, The plans for future expansion of the overall monitoring program include continued emphasis on monitoring unassessed waters - by increasing biological assessment staff to focus monitoring activities on 2nd and 3rd order streams - in accordance with the five-year cycle. MassDEP is also considering an expansion of the biomonitoring program from the existing wade-able streams into "deep river" and lakes habitat monitoring. During the next fiscal year the DWM will be planning how to increase efforts in this area, so that we are in a position to promptly take advantage of any opportunity to increase monitoring in the future.

Targeted Source Identification Monitoring Program:
The biggest gap in the monitoring program is addressing the number of impaired waters with unknown sources of contamination. This issue is highlighted several places, but none more telling than the 2004 Integrated List, which indicates that of the water bodies listed as impaired the sources of impairments are "unknown" for 96% of impaired lakes, 67% of impaired marine waters, and 36% of the impaired rivers. This data/information shortage has significant ramifications for the prevention of water quality degradation, control of pollution from nonpoint sources, and the restoration of degraded water quality. For these reasons, an increased effort in the "targeted" monitoring could, if successful, improve the results of the overall monitoring program, and would provide valuable input to those cleanup programs in which source identification is critical (e.g., TMDLs, NPS grants, SRF grants, and possibly permitting activities such as NPDES). For example, in the Blackstone Watershed alone ten river segments representing about 56.4 river miles fail to meet swimming standards because of bacterial contamination. Although monitoring has been useful in identifying these impairments MassDEP currently does not know what the sources of the contamination are and whether the sources are natural or due to human activities. A targeted approach would seek to identify and quantify the sources of contamination so corrective actions can be taken.

Volunteer monitoring:
The use of data from volunteer monitoring programs and monitoring efforts by other agencies is highly desirable from a budgetary perspective. Outside groups can provide data at a lower cost than would be possible if MassDEP collected the data. Local volunteer monitoring groups are also better able to conduct extensive shoreline surveys in their vicinity, especially during rain events, whereas it is extremely difficult for the DWM to mobilize for rain event sampling in all regions of the state. Volunteer monitors can also be effective advocates for protecting the water bodies they monitor, improving not only MassDEP's knowledge, but also the ability to mobilize citizens to take corrective actions.

The DWM staff presently assists volunteer groups by reviewing Quality Assurance Project Plans (QAPPs) where data are intended to supplement regulatory efforts. However, while the collection of the data is lower cost, MassDEP needs to provide staff for data management, expanded QAPP review, and possibly, the training of volunteer staff (if the training was not assumed by another agency or office within EOEEA). These staffing needs have been included in the Statewide Monitoring Strategy. The first place MassDEP will focus on to increase use of volunteer monitoring programs will be stream team surveys and bacteria source identification. These data will be used to continue development of statewide bacterial TMDLs during FY08 and beyond both on inland and coastal waters. The 2004 Integrated List includes approximately 195 coastal segments not meeting designated uses because of pathogens. Volunteer monitoring to identify sources of pathogens in rivers is also a very high priority because there are 173 segments listed for pathogens in the 2004 Integrated List. Finally, the Statewide Monitoring Strategy has identified the need for one full time position to work directly with volunteer monitoring groups to address the highest priority water quality problems.

Assessment Activities:
While MassDEP's water quality assessment reports are of good quality and provide a useful and comprehensive summary of information affecting water quality, the timeliness of making them available to users is less than ideal. With the completion of the most recent round of water quality assessment reports (WQARs) there is now a comprehensive report for each of the watersheds in the Commonwealth. The DWM has already begun to evaluate potential options and efficiencies that could be gained by making changes to the assessment process and examine the balance between comprehensive reporting and timeliness in reporting.

Associated with the development of water quality assessment reports is the need to develop an Integrated List of Waters (including the 303(d) List of Impaired Waters) for reporting to the EPA. The efficiency of completing this activity should be enhanced with the installation and implementation of the EPA-mandated ADB(mentioned above).

Special Monitoring Projects:
In addition to normal monitoring activities, periodically the DWM has a need to develop and conduct a number of special projects to obtain data necessary for future TMDL development and/or permit related decision-making. Some examples include special data needs associated with responding to issues on the Blackstone, Assabet, and Taunton Rivers. These special projects are described in greater detail in the detailed work plan section below.

In FY07, MassDEP participated in the National Assessment of Lakes that was conducted by EPA. MassDEP participated as observers with the intent of potentially using the EPA methods should the MassDEP begin monitoring lakes in the future.

Detailed work plans
Monitoring Program Development:
Although the Statewide Monitoring Strategy was completed in December 2004, monitoring program design is an iterative process so discussions continue with EPA to make the Strategy more comprehensive in nature. Areas under discussion include wetland and marine monitoring. Results from those discussions and with financial support from EPA, MassDEP's wetlands program is in the process of developing a wetlands monitoring strategy .

Targeted "source identification" monitoring:
As previously noted, the DWM has identified source monitoring as a key program element for continued enhancement in FY2008. In 2005, the DWM staff developed and implemented a targeted monitoring program to track down and identify bacterial sources in areas of the Blackstone and Sudbury watersheds. That program was expanded in FY06 and FY07 to include staff in two regional offices. For FY08, the focus has been placed on identifying bacterial sources near several beaches and segments that are presently on the state list of integrated waters. Although the results of that program have not yet been completely evaluated, DWM has already expanded that program to the northeast region of the state and will be participating on an EPA beach initiative in FY08. It is hoped that this program can be useful to follow up on the recommendations for recently completed bacterial TMDLs and to work in partnership with local watershed groups and municipalities to reduce or eliminate bacterial contamination across the state.

Targeted nutrient sampling will continue for the Massachusetts Estuaries Project (MEP), the nutrient criteria development projects, and TMDL projects. The MEP is a comprehensive evaluation of 89 estuaries in Southeastern MA. The project requires three years of detailed data collection in each embayment prior to conducting modeling and TMDL activities. Presently, with the exception of only a few, virtually all 89 embayments have begun monitoring activities.

Additional monitoring will be started during FY08 for the development of TMDLs and/or for assessing the conditions following TMDL development. In FY08, MassDEP, with the assistance of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), will begin detailed monitoring activities in the Assabet, Blackstone, and Taunton River Watersheds. In FY06, MassDEP developed a nutrient TMDL for the Assabet River. The TMDL required large reductions of phosphorus from several public-owned treatment works (POTWs) and up to a 90% reduction in sediment in several impounded sections of the river. Key to the successful implementation of the TMDL is the ability to monitor the extent of phosphorus release from sediment and the amount of biomass produced within the system. The USGS project will allow data collection for an additional two years prior to new treatment being added to the POTWs in 2009.

In addition to the Assabet River, additional targeted monitoring activities will be conducted on both the Blackstone and Taunton River systems. In the Blackstone, several questions need to be answered such as: 1) what is the amount or load of nitrogen and selected metals leaving MA into Rhode Island; 2) what is the extent of nitrogen attenuation associated with the discharge of the Upper Blackstone Water Pollution Abatement District; and 3) what is the extent of nutrient and metals re-suspension in major impoundments on the river? Each of these questions will be studied and answered in projects that began in FY07 and will extend through FY09.
Monitoring of the Taunton River system will begin with the goal of establishing a nutrient TMDL in the future. As of August 2007, a preliminary monitoring plan has been developed by USGS and is being discussed with MassDEP. It is anticipated that monitoring will commence in FY08 at a number of locations and will extend for a minimum of one year (through 2009) with subsequent modeling and TMDL development.

Finally, some staff time will be set aside in this plan to accommodate unplanned for requests for monitoring assistance. New and emerging water quality problems and water emergencies, such as contamination from spills and bypasses, response to algal blooms, and/or monitoring to determine the extent of contamination from aerial mosquito spraying for the EEE virus are recent examples of an unforeseen need for monitoring support that was provided, in part, by the DWM. These issues necessitate environmental sampling that is not envisioned when the annual program plan is prepared. Some modest allowance for these contingencies in the FFY2008 monitoring plan is proposed.

Assessment Monitoring:
The DWM biologists and monitoring coordinators will develop QAPPs for assessment monitoring using benthic macroinvertebrate RBP methodologies, habitat assessment, fish community analysis, nuisance algae assessment and water quality sampling. In addition, biologists will continue to develop and evaluate methods for assessing larger rivers, lakes and other wetlands. The DWM is seeking additional funding for one full-time staff biologist to add to the biomonitoring staff in FY2008 to support ongoing biomonitoring activities and methods development. The DWM will continue to focus on both unassessed and previously assessed waters when possible. Additionally, the DWM will continue to support the Interagency Committee on Toxics in Fish by performing fish toxics monitoring in accordance with the rotating watershed schedule and in response to public requests. Finally, the DWM will continue to automate data collection by expanding its capacity to collect continuous dissolved oxygen data through the deployment of unattended, multi-parameter probes. Assessment monitoring will continue to be performed in accordance with the DWM's five-year, rotating, watershed schedule, as presented in the table below. It should be noted that presently DWM has three vacant monitoring positions. DWM has requested and will continue to request that these positions be considered a high priority for backfilling.

YearWatershed
FY 08Blackstone, Chicopee, Connecticut, Nashua
FY 09Boston Harbor, Cape Cod, French & Quinebaug, Merrimack, Narragansett/Mt. Hope, Parker
FY 10Buzzards Bay, Deerfield, Ipswich, Islands, Millers, Shawsheen

Trend Monitoring:
The Monitoring Strategy completed in FY2005 identified the need for a monitoring program element that would determine the amount of contaminants carried by major rivers at strategic locations and how they change over time (i.e., "trend monitoring"). Any commitment to assess trends also requires a long-term commitment in monitoring resources. The sampling approach suited to meet this need is a fixed-station monitoring regimen where the same sites are sampled repeatedly over time and over a range of hydrologic conditions. Repeated sampling over time generates data that are suitable for determining trends in water-quality conditions and, over the longer term, for determining trends in contaminant loads. Sampling would not be constrained by the watershed management cycle (i.e., restricted to one year in five) but would be conducted on a regular and continuous basis (e.g., monthly). The Monitoring Strategy estimated that two (2) new staff are needed for water-quality sample collection, with additional costs and staff time needed for field preparation, laboratory analyses, and data analysis and management. The DWM is seeking additional funding to begin to implement this new initiative as both an internal program element and through contractual services. It is anticipated that DWM staff assigned to the MassDEP regional offices may perform the fixed-site network sampling. Careful planning will be needed to develop and implement this program and this planning process will be initiated in FY08. If successful in obtaining funding the DWM will begin to implement a trend and load monitoring program over the next three years.

Assessment and Assessment Report preparation:
A goal of the DWM is to eliminate the current back-log of assessments. The DWM is committed to being back on schedule with its watershed assessments by the end of the three-year time period covered by this work plan. Another staff vacancy in the Assessment Section along with one less Monitoring Coordinator will impact this timetable. While it is hoped that the DWM can fill these positions, in the interim additional streamlining of the assessment methods will be considered. The DWM Monitoring/Assessment Coordinators, the Basin Planners, and the DWM Assessment Section staff will complete this effort.

Integrated List of Massachusetts Waters:
The DWM submitted the Proposed 2006 Massachusetts Integrated List of Waters to the EPA on April 1, 2006 and initiated the public participation process at that same time. Completion of the report has been delayed due to the number of comments received and several data management issues. DWM anticipates the Final 2006 Integrated List will be submitted to EPA for approval in August 2007.With the hiring of a data management specialist, the DWM will partially implement the Assessment Database (ADB) during FY08 to make the process of translating the assessments into an integrated list more efficient. It is anticipated that "full" implementation will be possible in subsequent years once a plan is developed and implemented to migrate existing assessments into the new system. The DWM will also develop a new Integrated List by April 2008 for submittal to EPA for review and approval. The 2008 Integrated List will incorporate new assessment information from those watersheds for which new assessments have been completed since the 2006 Integrated List was developed. MassDEP will submit a public notice for comment on the proposed changes to the list prior to submittal to the EPA and provide an electronic update to the EPA upon receiving final approval of the list.

Nutrient-related Work:
In FY08 the MassDEP will:

  1. Continue statewide efforts to develop nutrient criteria
  2. Collect nutrient related data in the Assabet River watershed to assess existing conditions and provide a baseline to assess in-stream improvements resulting from nutrient reduction efforts.
  3. Begin collecting data for TMDL development in the Taunton River Watershed.
  4. Continue monitoring activities to support the development of both technical reports and TMDLs in approximately 14 new embayments as identified in the "Restore Degraded Water Quality" workplan.

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Prevent water quality degradation

Summary:

Indicator: Percent of all rivers, lakes, and marine waters that fully support all designated uses.

Why is this important?
Massachusetts' lakes, rivers and coastal waters are valuable natural resources that provide habitat, recreation, fishing, and shellfishing. MassDEP's work to protect and improve water quality consists of two separate but related efforts: improving water quality where it is impaired and preventing good quality water from becoming impaired. It is easier and less costly to prevent problems from occurring than it is to fix them after they occur. For this reason, we need to maintain high quality waters. A good measure of our work is to prevent degradation in the percent of waters that fully support all uses.

How are we doing?
Unfortunately, MassDEP does not know how we are doing at preventing water quality degradation because we have not been able to assess the majority of the waters of the state consistently over time. For waters not assessed, MassDEP does not know what percent are supporting all designated uses, or if that percentage is increasing or decreasing. Waters that are known to fully support designated uses are listed here but there are two important limitations to this information: 1) There likely are many more good quality waters that are not included in this data because those waters have not been assessed, and 2) no trend inference can be drawn from the data because the sampling is done for assessment purposes and not for determining trends. Also different basins are sampled in different years; so increases or decreases in percent of high quality waters reflect differences in basins, not change over time in the same locations. Although we do not have data sufficient to assess our progress toward this goal, we do have many programs that are designed to prevent degradation of our surface waters including, but not limited to:

In addition MassDEP maintains compliance and enforcement programs and grant and loan programs such as the State Revolving Fund and Nonpoint Source (section 319) grants. These programs, in conjunction with the actions of the local boards of health, conservation commissions, lake and watershed associations, and others continue to prevent water quality degradation in the Commonwealth.

Workplan:

What's behind the numbers: The data that best reflects success in preventing degradation of Massachusetts' waters is the trends in percentage of waters fully supporting designated uses. If that percentage were to remain stable or to increase, it would indicate success in at least maintaining existing water quality. MassDEP needs to monitor the same locations over time to determine where water quality is has improved, degraded, or remained the same for this measure to be useful.

As is described in the indicator "Know Condition of Surface Waters," MassDEP does not have the resources to monitor the majority of the waters of the state all the time. With limited resources, the focus of MassDEP's monitoring efforts will be on waters known or suspected to be degraded and to work toward restoration of those impaired waters. Only nine percent of marine waters, 26% of river miles, and 67% of the lake acres in the Commonwealth have been assessed for one or more designated uses. Therefore, MassDEP does not know what percent of Massachusetts's waters fully support designated uses. The information presented here is for the limited portion of the waters assessed. Refer to "Know Condition of Surface Waters" for a breakdown of data by individual designated use.

The assessment data represent the status of Massachusetts' waters at a fixed point in time; the data does not indicate whether conditions are improving or degrading over time. MassDEP has attempted to use the limited monitoring resources most efficiently by collecting data in the 27 watersheds on a five-year rotating basin schedule. This allows assessment of each basin at least once every five years. Therefore, while MassDEP has data every year from water quality sampling, one year's data cannot be compared to the prior year's to determine trends in water quality as the consecutive year data is measured in different basins.

Although MassDEP has made a reasonable choice about what monitoring to do given the shortage of monitoring resources, the absence of trend data is a significant gap in the information available to the state both for selecting the most important problems on which to focus, and in evaluating the effectiveness of water quality degradation prevention.

Maintaining Strong Performance
Even though MassDEP does not have an extensive foundation for evaluating progress in protecting existing good quality waters, there are several programs that are aimed at preventing water quality degradation.

Massachusetts Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) funds for upgrading waste water treatment plants (WWTP), collection systems, and discharge outfalls :
MassDEP, through the SRF loan program, evaluates, prioritizes, ranks, and funds a large number of wastewater projects aimed at reducing impacts to surface and groundwaters. The SRF is the largest water pollution control fund available to assist communities in implementing the requirements of the Federal and State Clean Water Acts. Each year, MassDEP funds over $300 million of new projects. Funding is targeted towards projects that address known impaired water bodies and contaminants of concern as well as those that address other local watershed problems. Many of the pollution problems identified over the last 30 years, such as low dissolved oxygen resulting from high organic loads, have been reduced or eliminated through projects financed by the SRF. Currently, a 2% low interest loan is available to communities for planning and construction projects.

Nonpoint source (NPS) control grants:
MassDEP funds nonpoint source mitigation projects aimed at reducing contamination of surface waters from sources such as urban run-off and stormwater through the Section 319 Nonpoint Source Competitive grant program. NPS grants continue to provide critical funding for implementation efforts such as the control of runoff from agricultural land and the design and construction of detention basins to control watershed and stormwater runoff. During FFY06 and FFY07 important improvements were made to the 319 grant program. First, MassDEP spent considerable time and effort to redevelop the former Nonpoint Source Megamanual now called the "Clean Water Toolkit". The Clean Water Toolkit provides a complete resource for understanding and mitigating the effects of nonpoint source pollution. The original version, also called the "Megamanual," was released in 1994. The new Clean Water Toolkit is available through MassDEP's website and as a CD. The electronic format affords access to a wealth of additional information through the use of hot links to outside resources. The Toolkit also provides a Best Management Practice Selector Tool that allows the user to select appropriate fact sheets and best management practices according to specific criteria or resource areas of concern.

In FFY06 and 07 MassDEP also began the development of watershed-based plans to provide guidance and assistance in determining the potential nonpoint sources where water quality impairments have been identified. The purpose of this project was to develop a Watershed-Based Plan for each of the 27 major Massachusetts basins. Watershed-Based Plans developed under this project contain the following elements:

  • Identification of causes and sources or groups of similar sources that will need to be controlled.
  • Estimate of load reductions expected for the management measures described.
  • Description of management measures that will need to be implemented to achieve the load reductions and identification of critical areas in which those measures will be needed.
  • Estimate of the amounts of technical and financial assistance needed, associated costs, and/or the sources and authorities that will be relied upon, to implement the plan.
  • Education/outreach used to enhance public understanding of the project and encourage their early and continued participation in selecting, designing, and implementing the NPS management measures that will be implemented.
  • Schedule for implementing the NPS management measures ID in the plan that is reasonably expeditious.
  • Description of interim, measurable milestones for determining whether NPS management measures or other control actions are being implemented.
  • Criteria that can be used to determine whether loading reductions are being achieved over time and substantial progress is being made towards attaining WQ standards. And, if not, criteria for determining whether the plan or TMDL needs to be revised.
  • Monitoring component to evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation efforts over time, measured against the criteria in the above bullet.

The fundamental components of this project were effectively completed in FFY07 and is available through MassDEP's website later. In addition, internal and external outreach will be conducted to instruct how to use this new tool to help prioritize and eliminate water quality impairments. The tool will also serve to help inform state staff when developing their annual monitoring plans.

Permitting:
a) National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits issued by EPA and MassDEP set limits for discharges of chemicals from point sources, to insure that concentrations and loadings do not impair the uses of the receiving waters. Increasingly stringent permit limits have reduced the concentrations of parameters such as metals and phosphorus in the discharges of sewage treatment plants. Monitoring requirements in NPDES permits have also provided MassDEP with information essential to developing programs to reduce pollution effects and determine what further reductions may be needed (e.g., nitrogen monitoring for discharges into or near coastal waters).
b) Wetlands standards and permits, which are jointly shared between the Commonwealth and local conservation commissions, establish the conditions for activities within or near wetland resource areas. The standards and permits are aimed at preserving wetlands, which play an important role in reducing contamination of surface waters. These standards and permits reduce alterations of wetlands and also minimize the impacts of erosion of suspended sediments into surface waters. As a result of these efforts, losses and impairments of wetlands are prevented, thus protecting surface water quality and allowing wetlands to perform their many functions .

Compliance monitoring:
a) MassDEP monitors compliance by permitted dischargers through discharge limitations contained in their permits, by reviewing discharge monitoring reports, and/or taking analyzing effluent samples. MassDEP also inspects permitted facilities to determine if the facilities are being operated efficiently and properly to minimize the potential for permit limit violations. Because NPDES permits are written to protect water quality, compliance activities related to these permits is important for preventing degradation of water quality.
b) MassDEP conducts routine inspections of project sites to determine if protective measures, such as erosion control, are in place and functioning properly. In so doing, erosion of sediments into surface waters is prevented, thus protecting the habitat and biota .

Stormwater controls:
A variety of stormwater control programs exist within MassDEP, including design oversight, construction permitting, and the state Stormwater Control Policies. A major element is the Phase II Stormwater Control Program aimed at reducing stormwater pollution. At present, 237 cities and towns are participating in the program, which is expected to significantly reduce stormwater pollution loadings. The vast majority of these cities and towns have recently filed a stormwater Control Plan with EPA and MassDEP. Although this is an EPA program a few selected stormwater plans will be reviewed in targeted watersheds (see Control Pollution from Point Sources) particularly where TMDLs are being developed. MassDEP will also consider using other available Federal and State authority where deemed necessary to address stormwater sources that are not currently regulated under the EPA Phase 1 and Phase 2 programs.

Fixed station monitoring Central Region/Division of Watershed Management (DWM) cooperative "SMART" program:
This monitoring program involves monthly collection of water chemistry samples at a network of stations throughout the MassDEP Central Region. Because of the frequency of sampling at fixed stations, trends analyses can be generated using these data. A major result of this program will be the ability to assess the success of various MassDEP water protection programs, and to detect shifts in pollutant loading, allowing for the implementation of corrective measures. In FY06 and FY07 MassDEP expanded regional monitoring capability throughout the state. These staff will have the primary responsibility of using bacteria source tracking techniques to identify and eliminate sources of bacteria to impaired waters. It is MassDEP's goal in FFY08 to evaluate the expansion of the Central Regional fixed site program throughout the state.

United States Geological Survey (USGS) fixed station monitoring:
The USGS is currently conducting water quality and flow monitoring at a series of stations within Massachusetts for the purpose of conducting trends analyses. Not all of the data are presently applicable to MassDEP monitoring programs. However, as with the Central Region/DWM "SMART" program described above, it is hoped that the long-term trends will provide tools for detecting shifts in pollutant loading, allowing for implementation of corrective measures.

Improving results
Several recommendations for improving the results of the programs related to preventing water quality degradation are discussed below. MassDEP recognizes that the lack of comprehensive statewide information on water quality, and the absence of meaningful trend data, makes it challenging to know where conditions are degrading or threatened and to prevent further degradation. As is explained in the "Know Condition of Surface Water" work plan, MassDEP has developed a comprehensive statewide-monitoring strategy identifying critical gaps in the existing water quality monitoring program. The plan identifies the resource needs for different types of monitoring activities including, but not limited to, monitoring to assess water quality conditions, trends monitoring and monitoring needed to develop pollution budgets. The plan also identified gaps in necessary support services such as data management and laboratory support. Finally, it identifies needed funding to address each gap and prioritizes actions based on funding availability. The goal of the plan is to address each of these gaps within 10 years that will be dependent upon sustained funding to make this happen. The "trends monitoring" program will attempt to build on existing trends monitoring projects, including: 1) A fixed-site monitoring program (SMART) that has been piloted in the Central Region to collect data on trends in selected water quality variables, 2) monitoring for trends in mercury concentrations in fish tissue to assess the effectiveness of various steps to reduce mercury in the environment, and 3) USGS trends data from its fixed-site monitoring network in Massachusetts and the USGS recommendations for establishing a network to calculate pollutant loadings and define trends at strategic locations.

The efforts to control nutrients in Massachusetts's surface waters will be improved by developing and finalizing nutrient criteria/water quality standards and by developing targets for point and non-point loadings.

Field staff will continue to communicate observations of violations resulting from improper or inadequate wetlands resource protection, or the discharge of improperly treated effluent into surface waters by permitted dischargers to improve compliance with laws and regulations designed to prevent water quality degradation.

Detailed work plans

  • DWM staff will continue to work on the development of freshwater nutrient criteria, and coastal embayment site-specific nitrogen "threshold" concentrations to be used in the development of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) and to prevent future water quality degradation. It is MassDEP's intent to finalize criteria during FFY08. Once finalized the criteria (or translators) will need to be incorporated into the state Water Quality Standards.
  • DWM will pursue additional funding to expand our monitoring capability to address shortfalls identified in the statewide monitoring strategy. In addition, with the assistance of an EPA grant the Wetlands program will begin development of a wetlands monitoring program to assess trends and threats to vital resource areas.
  • DWM Basin Planners will continue to assure that work is directed to the most important water quality issues in each watershed by identifying watershed data needs and getting the relevant environmental data to the people selecting targets for compliance work and to policy makers setting priorities. Integrating all the information on a watershed basis will allow MassDEP's programs - permitting, enforcement, technical assistance, and grant and loan programs - to focus on the most important issues for preventing degradation in high quality waters.
  • DWM staff will work with the NPDES permitting program by reviewing permits, and when necessary, recommending changes in limits (based on watershed information such as assessment reports and monitoring program results).
  • DWM staff will also continue to develop "Protective TMDLs" where necessary to maintain water quality goals and standards. Several of these have already been developed through the Massachusetts Estuary Project .
  • DWM staff will continue to work with the EPA to identify or report on appropriate watersheds measures and track progress based on HUC 12 watershed delineations.

back to Surface & Groundwater index

Surface water discharge permitting

Summary:

Indicators: The number of discharges contributing to waters impaired for nutrients & the number of CSO and stormwater discharges to waters impaired for bacteria

Why is this important?

Point sources are significant contributors to the pollution load in surface waters. At controlled levels, these pollutants can be discharged without harming waters or the plants and animals that live there. The Surface Water Discharge Program helps to assure that Massachusetts surface waters meet water quality standards and uses established by the Clean Water Act by controlling pollution from point sources. The effluent limits contained in surface water discharge permits are set to ensure such protection.

The two most significant causes of impaired water in Massachusetts are nutrients and pathogens. MassDEP needs to measure whether we have adequately controlled surface water discharges by looking at the extent to which we control nutrient and bacteria inputs to surface water bodies. When fully developed, this indicator will evaluate the number of surface water discharge permits that are contributing to surface water bodies with identified impairments due to nutrients or bacteria. At the present time MassDEP does not have the data bases linked to geographic information systems to comprehensively determine which permits allow discharges to such impaired water bodies. As an interim measure we are tracking whether our permits contain limits for nutrients and bacteria.

How are we doing?
The 2004 Integrated List of Waters for Massachusetts identifies 1,097 surface water body segments as impaired of which 302 and 209 are river segments and estuaries, respectively. Nutrients and pathogens are the most prevalent causes of impairment. A preliminary analysis of the data indicates that at least 158 of NPDES/BRP permits authorize discharges to waters known to be impaired. This suggests the need to investigate further but does not by itself demonstrate that those permits are causing the water quality problem; many other factors contribute to water quality impairment, including nonpoint sources and physical alterations. All BRP permits contain bacteria limits. With respect to nutrients, only 75 of the 157 permits include limits, which are known to be a significant cause of water quality problems in many water bodies. As is true of discharges to impaired waters, this alone does not demonstrate that the permit is not protective; the discharge may not contain excessive amounts of nutrients and/or the water body to which it discharges may not have nutrient problems. Further investigation is needed to determine which permits require tighter limits.

Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) occur in several watersheds across the Commonwealth. The discharge of untreated sewage associated with CSO events causes periodic (storm related) non-compliance with surface water quality standards for bacteria. Twenty-six communities have CSO systems, which impact Boston Harbor, Merrimack River, Nashua River, Connecticut River, Mount Hope Bay and New Bedford Harbor. All CSO discharges are covered under NPDES permits which require the implementation of "9 minimum controls" to reduce CSO impacts and the development of "Long Term Control Plans" (LTCPs). The elimination and/or treatment of CSO discharges over the past 20 years have significantly decreased the number of CSO events and volumes discharged by approximately 50%. The implementation of the LTCPs will produce additional reductions over the next 10-20 years, which cumulatively will reduce CSO volumes by over 75%.

Stormwater discharges to surface waters cause water use impairments in water bodies across the state. The development of improved stormwater controls through the NPDES Stormwater Phase 2 program will lessen the impact to surface waters through controls implemented at the local level. Quantification of water quality impacts from stormwater and anticipated reductions through remediation are difficult to project so implementation aimed at lessening impacts to water quality is geared towards the development and implementation of Best Management Plans [BMPs] which can be assessed qualitatively as to their effectiveness over time.

Workplan:

What's behind the numbers: Massachusetts has different types of permits for discharges to surface waters. The major categories, with data current as of July 2006 are:

Permit TypeMajorMinorTotal
Sewage Treatment10060160
Industrial26105 (approx)131
Power Plants13417
General Permits* (NCCW, Water Treatment Plants & construction Dewatering)-191191
*Multi-Sector Industrial General Permit is an EPA-Only permit.
Permit TypePermitteesNumber of Outfalls
Combined Sewer Overflows24366
Permit TypeCoveredAppliedPermit issued
Stormwater Phase I222
Stormwater Phase II

250 (13 waivers, 237 required to have coverage)

Approximately 60 "non-traditionals"

237

60

237

45

Permit TypePOTWs required to controlIndirect Dischargers
Indirect Dischargers50Approximately 1700

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a significant backlog of permit applications that have not been acted upon. As of July 2007 there were 197 facilities that have applied for permits and not yet received them. Of them, 112 are facilities seeking permits for groundwater remediation, many of which may be covered the new general permit from EPA. These discharges are allowed pursuant to the emergency exclusion provisions of the regulations. The remaining 85 facilities with pending permit applications are minor dischargers with expired permits and are counted above in the tally of existing permittees. EPA has taken steps to reduce this permitting backlog by increasing the number of staff available to write these permits. The prior permits are administratively continued pending renewal. In addition to the groundwater remediation general permit, EPA has issued new general permits for small publicly owned sewage treatment plants and for incidental process waste streams at hydroelectric generating facilities. Qualifying facilities that have outstanding applications for individual permits or those that have minor permits will be granted coverage under the general permits where appropriate. This is expected to further reduce the backlog of unissued permits.

The data for each category is described below.

NPDES point source permits: Massachusetts is not a delegated state under the federal Clean Water Act, so EPA is the entity responsible for issuing NPDES permits to facilities located in Massachusetts. MassDEP has its own permitting authority and therefore issues joint discharge permits with EPA to draft permits. NPDES permits are intended to contain limits that are protective of the receiving water body. To assess the extent to which regulatory controls (i.e., water quality permits) are protecting water quality, MassDEP has adopted two measures: the number of discharges contributing to waters impaired for nutrients; and the number of combined sewer overflow and stormwater discharges to waters impaired for bacteria. These measures help gauge whether controls for nutrients and pathogens are sufficient.

The 2004 Integrated List of Waters for Massachusetts identifies 511 surface water body segments (streams and estuaries) as impaired. Nutrients (phosphorus & nitrogen) and pathogens are the most prevalent causes of impairment. Based on a preliminary of GIS, there are 158 permitted point sources that discharge to or within 1/4 mile of an impaired water body.1 MassDEP has conducted an initial analysis of the data for nutrient controls [see CSO section below for analysis of pathogens.] The initial analysis is that 138 of the NPDES permits contain nutrient limits (71 permits contain water quality based limits for BOD/NH-3N, 67 permits contain nutrient controls, 3 have nitrogen limits, and all have phosphorus limits). This analysis suggests that a review of the prioritized permits, and an inclusion of nutrient controls, could have water quality benefits.

Also relevant to assessing the effectiveness of the regulatory controls, is whether permits are "current", i.e., whether they are based on the most up to date information, both for the receiving body and the discharge. For this purpose, the 5-year renewal schedule is used to determine if permits are current (i.e., if a permit is more than five years old it is not considered "current"). Data shows that 12% of major dischargers and 40% of the minor dischargers are operating under permits that are more than five years old. While these percentages are unacceptably high, we note that an older permit does not by itself indicate that the permit is not protective. If circumstances have not changed, the permits may still be protective. In addition, some of the facilities are likely no longer in business. Whether permits contain controls for the pollutants that data indicates are the primary causes of water impairment is also informative, and is the basis for the analysis discussed above. This is a qualitative rather than a quantitative assessment; it does not evaluate whether the permit limits are sufficiently stringent, only if there are permit limits for the pollutants of concern. MassDEP's ability to conduct this analysis is limited by our database; currently the database does not allow searches by pollutant type, so this analysis has to be done manually.

Combined sewer overflows: Combined sewer overflows (CSO) result from wet weather events in areas where the sewer lines combine sewage and stormwater flow. When the flow in the pipes exceeds the capacity of the conveyance or treatment system, the treatment system is bypassed and untreated, or only partially treated, wastewater is discharged to nearby surface waters. In Massachusetts, there are 24 sewer authorities with such CSO, and a total of 366 individual points of discharge. The impact from CSO continues to cause wide spread water quality violations. The elevated pathogen levels associated with the CSO present substantial public health risk and significantly reduce the public's opportunity to use the waters of the Commonwealth. CSO reduction presents a formidable financial challenge because controlling CSO discharges is often very expensive. CSO abatement measures have been or are being implemented in all of the 24 affected systems, and CSO volumes are being reduced in watersheds throughout the state. The estimated average annual untreated CSO volumes have been reduced by 43% from baseline levels in the late 1980s. The projects currently under implementation orders will result in further CSO reductions and are expected to lower CSO volumes by 77% from the baseline level.

Stormwater: Polluted storm water runoff is a leading cause of impairment to the nearly 40 percent of surveyed U.S. water bodies which do not meet water quality standards. Over land or via stormwater collection systems, polluted runoff is discharged, often untreated, directly into local water bodies. When left uncontrolled, this water pollution can result in the destruction of fish, wildlife, and aquatic life habitats, a loss in aesthetic value, and threats to public health due to contaminated food, drinking water supplies, and recreational waterways. Stormwater discharges are generated by runoff from land and impervious areas such as paved streets, parking lots, and building rooftops during rainfall and snow events, and often contain pollutants in quantities that could adversely affect water quality. Most stormwater discharges are considered point sources and require coverage by an NPDES permit. The primary method to control stormwater discharges is through the development and implementation of stormwater pollution prevention or management plans, which incorporate the use of best management practices.

By regulating stormwater discharges, MassDEP hopes to reduce the level of polluted runoff to surface waters, and ultimately to reduce impairments of surface water bodies. Both MassDEP and US EPA regulate stormwater in Massachusetts. In addition, municipalities may have local drainage, sewer, wetland or other ordinances that regulate stormwater. Following is a listing of the type of stormwater activity regulated and the number of permittees in Massachusetts:

Type of ActivityNumber of Regulated Entities
Small municipal separate storm sewer systems ("MS4s") (communities with populations less than 100,000 in Urbanized Areas, and other state and federal entities that own and operate their MS4s, the so-called, "Phase II communities")250 [13 received waivers] plus 60 nontraditional MS4's EPA & MassDEP jointly issue permits with EPA as lead permitting authority
Construction disturbing one or more acresEPA is permitting authority
Industrial activity discharges of stormwater to either an MS4 or directly to a surface water bodyEPA is permitting authority
Large and medium municipalities (100,000 or more people, Phase I)Boston and Worcester

Sanitary Sewer Overflows: There are 218 municipalities in Massachusetts that operate and maintain a sanitary sewer system. Many of these systems are between 30 and 100 years old and are subject to leaks (I/I), blockages, pump failures and capacity restrictions. MassDEP learns of SSO events generally through the municipality notification to the appropriate regional office, as required by regulation, or by citizen complaint.

Historically, MassDEP has taken formal enforcement action against municipalities that have SSO problems related to capacity and/or situations where recurring events have not been adequately corrected. In addition, some of these actions have been related to CSO issues and long-term control plans as well as CWMP/Facility Planning and compliance with the I/I provision of NPDES permits.

In general, most situations where recurring SSOs are a problem, the municipality or district is under an enforcement order to address and correct the source of the problem. Usually these are hydraulic capacity issues in the system or pump station. The cause cited in the majority of reported SSO events is a blockage. These are generally one-time events routinely corrected by removal of the in-line blockage.

Indirect discharges: Some facilities discharge wastewater not to the surface waters of the state, but into a sewage collection system, where it is routed to a wastewater treatment facility before being discharged into surface waters. Federal regulations require sewage treatment plants to develop plans to regulate the discharge of wastes into the sewers so that those discharges don't upset the operation of the treatment plan or pass through the treatment plant untreated into waters of the Commonwealth. A treatment plan upset can occur when a discharge into the sewers disrupts the treatment at that plant, (e.g., a highly acidic discharge that kills the biological material that treats the wastewater), causing violations of the facility's permit. Pass-through can result from discharge of wastes into the sewers that will not be removed by the treatment technology employed by the sewage treatment plant, but will only be a violation of the facility's discharge permit if regulators know the pollutant is there and have imposed limits on the discharge of that pollutant.

The program developed to control these discharges, called the "pretreatment program" is based on the premise that dischargers into sewers may have to "pretreat" their wastes before discharge to the sewage treatment system, and gives authority over the discharges to the local treatment entities. Local treatment entities are supposed to identify the waste dischargers into their system to determine what wastes are incompatible and to permit the dischargers and enforce their permits so that unauthorized pollutants do not enter waters of the Commonwealth. There are 47 Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW) with approved pretreatment programs in Massachusetts. Violations of a POTW NPDES permit limits are noted on the reports that the POTW file, so the fact of an upset, if not the reason, comes to the attention of MassDEP through the monitoring reports. However, pass-through of pollutants from industrial dischargers will be noted only if the pollutant at issue is limited in the POTW NPDES permit. MassDEP currently does not have any data on the extent of possible pass-through of uncontrolled constituents.

Summary of toxics discharged to Massachusetts POTW for the years 1998-2002 (2002 is the most recent year for which data are available). Data are from the Toxics Release Inventory and are reported here as tons per year.

As detailed in the above graph, a significant quantity of toxics is discharged to POTWs on an annual basis. The data shown here represents only that reported to the Toxics Release Inventory, which only requires reports from larger facilities and only for certain specified toxic chemicals, so the total quantity actually discharged to POTW is therefore likely to be more than is reported in this data base.

Maintaining Strong Performance
NPDES point source permits. Although timeliness in permit issuance is an ongoing issue, MassDEP has greatly improved the protectiveness of the permits that have been issued. Many of the watersheds in eastern Massachusetts exhibit water quality problems associated with nutrient enrichment. The low gradient, impounded characteristics of these streams coupled with nutrient discharges from POTW and other sources has led to a significant number of river segments being listed on the Integrated List for Water (formerly the 303d list of impaired waters) for nutrient impairment. In response MassDEP has completed the development of a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for the Assabet River watershed and is in the final stages of completing nutrient TMDLs for the Nashua and Upper Charles watersheds. Three POTW in the Upper Charles have surface water discharge permits limiting total phosphorus to 0.2 mg/l. The TMDL for the Assabet River resulted in four POTWs having surface water discharge permits limiting total phosphorus to 0.1 mg/l on a seasonal basis. The completion of the TMDL in the Nashua River will result in four POTW in the watershed being issued new permits with phosphorus limits of 0.2mg/l for three facilities and the other at .5 mg/l. These permits are among the most protective nutrient control NPDES permits in the country. As a result of these permits being appealed, MassDEP will be working with EPA to resolve the issues brought up in the appeals. In addition to this permitting work, MassDEP is working toward establishing site-specific nutrient criteria to assure that all future permits are protective of water quality.

MassDEP is also in the process of completing two studies regarding nutrient reduction and transport. The first is a comprehensive independent nitrogen reduction evaluation study at 23 POTWs in the Ten Mile, Blackstone and Connecticut River watersheds. This study will provide preliminary information necessary to initiate an assessment of the technical and financial impacts to the POTWs affecting nitrogen loadings from Massachusetts to Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island and Long Island Sound in Connecticut. The second is a project under contract with USGS to study the fate and transport of nutrients in the Massachusetts portion of the Blackstone River watershed to include both point and non-point sources of phosphorus and nitrogen.

The Surface Water Discharge Permit Program will continue to review applications for new discharges, issue 401 Water Quality Certifications and joint permits, and write selected permits for EPA that are consistent with water quality standards.

Combined sewer overflows: As untreated CSO discharges cause violations of water quality standards, and are in violation of NPDES permits, all 24 of the state's CSO permittees are under an enforcement order of some type to move forward with planning, design, and construction of CSO abatement facilities. The critical step in defining proper CSO projects is development of a Long-Term CSO Control Plan (LTCP). In some cases, due to the complex and costly nature of addressing CSO discharges, many communities are in a phased process of plan development and implementation, which results in early implementation of the most cost-effective CSO projects, while the plan is being finalized. Out of the 24 permittees, 19 have approved LTCPs, 10 have approved "Phase I" Plans, and one has not completed a plan. In total, up to now, there has been over $1.3 billion put toward CSO abatement projects across the state, and most of the permittees have entered the construction phase.

MassDEP will continue to monitor, track, and negotiate orders to establish deadlines for implementation of these needed CSO abatement facilities. Permittees are also required to quantify CSO discharges, and MassDEP will monitor reports to ensure that the CSO abatement measures are achieving the expected CSO volume reductions or treatment performance as defined in the LTCPs.

Stormwater: MassDEP will continue to review notices of intent and community stormwater management program plans, conduct site visits, and provide technical assistance. MassDEP will continue to take the lead on the issuance of the City of Worcester Phase 2 plan with the intent of issuing the permit during FY07. MassDEP will concentrate its efforts in FY2007 to revising the Stormwater Management Handbook.

Improving Results
NPDES point source permits: There are more NPDES permits to review than the combined resources of EPA and MassDEP can handle, as the data on expired permits demonstrates. So that the most important permits are addressed first, MassDEP is prioritizing permit reviews based on available environmental data, in order to focus resources most efficiently on the most significant water quality challenges. MassDEP will identify the permits with the highest priority by locating the water bodies that are not achieving water quality standards as a result of nutrients, determine what point sources (if any) contribute to that impairment, and revisit those permits to assure that the permit limits are sufficiently protective.

In addition, MassDEP will require permits for new and renewed discharges to impaired waters to include provisions for monitoring of nutrients in the effluent and will increase requirements for ambient monitoring where appropriate. These provisions will be included both for inland and coastal waters (in which nitrogen is the nutrient of concern).

As discussed above, understanding of how effectively MassDEP is controlling point sources of pollution is hampered by the inability to easily analyze water quality data and correlate discharge monitoring with instream water quality. Database improvements and additional analysis of nutrient loads, pathogen levels, and impaired segments are needed to improve our understanding. MassDEP continues to monitor the existing nutrient load from Massachusetts POTWs and determine whether their permit limits are sufficiently protective, particularly for those discharging to impaired waters.

The emphasis for many years has been on issuing major NPDES permits. This emphasis was based on the view that the larger dischargers likely had a greater environmental impact. However, the result has been that many minor permits are significantly out of date. MassDEP intends to include minor permits in the prioritization approach outlined above and will address first those permits where a discharge appears likely to be contributing to a water quality problem. In addition, EPA is taking steps to reduce the backlog of minor permits pending renewal.

In January 2007 revisions to the state water quality standards promulgated by the MassDEP became effective. The revised regulations include statewide site-specific copper criteria for 23 specific streams and stream segments. The adoption of the criteria replaces EPA's national criteria in determining NPDES permit limits for approximately 30 facilities. EPA/Region 1 approved the use of the site-specific copper criteria on March 26, 2007 as required under the federal Clean Water Act. MassDEP is in the process of instituting the application of the new criteria as permits are proposed for renewal and through individual permit modification. The result will be more accurate toxicity limits for copper and increased compliance.

Combined sewer overflows: While combined sewer systems continue to be very challenging to operate and maintain, technologies now exist which are very effective in providing real-time system information, including notice of when CSOs are active, and also more timely and accurate estimates of CSO volumes. MassDEP, in cooperation with EPA, is planning to strengthen requirements on CSO permittees to more accurately report activations and volumes of CSO discharges, and perhaps more importantly, to use this information to expand the public notification program so that any users of the impacted water resources are notified of the increased health risks. These requirements will be established for all CSO permittees as elements of their "Nine Minimum Controls" programs.

Sanitary Sewer Overflows: MassDEP has developed a standard SSO Reporting Form, that in order to be in compliance with the reporting requirements, the standard form must be submitted to the Department by mail, fax, or hand delivered. The standard form is also available on the MassDEP's website.

eDEP: The program has invested considerable time and effort in developing electronic DMR reporting in an attempt to collect this data electronically and improve its ability to analyze the information and focus its resources to eliminating chronic SSOs. This effort is continuing in fiscal year 2008 and will be expanded to include gathering data of sanitary sewer connections and extensions. By reinforcing the reporting requirements and the consequences associated with non-compliance, the desired result will be an increase of reporting and the accuracy of the information supplied. In addition, MassDEP will be able to focus its resources on the serious violators.

There are approximately 15 municipal treatment plants in Massachusetts that discharge to ground water. SSO events in these systems also have the potential to impact surface waters and the public health. MassDEP will evaluate this issue and may revise the ground water discharge permit regulations to include the standard reporting requirements of the surface water permit program.

Stormwater: To improve results from the stormwater program, MassDEP staff will provide assistance and feedback to MS4 regulated municipalities over the five-year permit term. Review of the stormwater management programs through onsite visits with some municipalities is crucial to understanding the town's ability to implement the permit requirements. In addition, MassDEP will conduct enforcement actions in areas where stormwater is known to be contributing to water quality impairments. MassDEP will work with municipalities to improve cooperation between water suppliers and MS4 administrators to increase the amount of stormwater that is recharged to the ground.

Indirect discharges: MassDEP does not currently know the extent to which pollutants from industrial users may be entering waters of the Commonwealth through POTW. The prioritization of POTW for permitting and compliance attention should identify waters that are known to be impaired by POTW discharge, which could provide a mechanism to target some facilities for further investigation. MassDEP does not currently have the resources to invest further in identification of systems that are not adequately permitting or enforcing against their industrial users, and have to rely on the POTW to protect not only their treatment plants but also the waters of the Commonwealth.

MassDEP is in the process of revising its sanitary sewer extension and connection regulations (314 CMR 7.00) to streamline the existing permitting process. This will eliminate duplicative review by the local permitting authority and MassDEP. It is anticipated that these changes will free up approximately 4.0 FTEs of staff time that would be redirected toward other environmentally beneficial areas such as reducing the level of noncompliance in the groundwater permitting program, working with municipalities to eliminate sanitary sewage overflows (SSOs) by implementing adequate infiltration/inflow (I/I) identification and elimination programs.

Detailed Work Plan
NPDES Point Source Permits

  • Reissue individual NPDES permits focusing on facilities with nutrient control needs that discharge to impaired waters and facilities with permits expiring in 2008. The effort to reduce the backlog of facilities discharging under expired permits will continue as a high priority. Permits will be issued based upon a TMDL analysis where available, which should result in long-term water quality improvements.
  • Develop a state-wide NPDES nutrient loading analysis:evaluate the existing nutrient load from the 115 POTW in the state; determine which facilities discharge to impaired waters and which currently have nutrient limits and/or monitoring requirements in their permits; prioritize those which are causing an impact and those which need new permits.
  • Update GIS to include all known surface water permits.
  • Where cause of nutrient or pathogen impairment is unknown, conduct a survey of the watershed to identify potential sources of impairment.
  • Identify other discharges (i.e., NPS or other unpermitted direct discharges) that are not permitted but need to be.
  • Continue to provide technical assistance on administrative appeals of surface water discharge permits.
  • Continue to work with NEIWPCC in developing staffing criteria for POTWs.
  • Implementation of the new Bacteria Criteria as promulgated on December 29, 2006.

Combined Sewer Overflows

  • Monitor and Track enforcement orders to ensure that CSO abatement facilities are being constructed without delay.
  • Continue to review and scrutinize CSO plans to ensure that permittees are achieving the highest feasible level of CSO control.
  • Institute requirements in NPDES permits for enhanced CSO Monitoring and Public Notification Programs to gather better data and provide the public with more timely and useful CSO discharge information.

Sanitary Sewer Overflows

  • Continue to log and track SSO reporting.
  • Continue to initiate enforcement against serious chronic violators.
  • Establish a formal screening/tracking/inspection system to focus on SSO reporting and minimization to reduce the environmental impacts of SSO events.
  • Notify Boards of Health of the notification procedures since in some situations they are contacted as a result of back up into homes. This will be accomplished at MassDEP's annual BOH meetings in late winter.
  • Coordinate with EPA on enforcement activities associated with SSO events.
  • Include requirements in NPDES permits regarding the notification to both MassDEP and EPA for reporting SSOs.

Stormwater

  • MassDEP will be monitoring annual reports submitted by Phase II regulated MS4s over the five-year permit term. MassDEP will conduct enforcement cases as appropriate in areas where stormwater is known to be contributing to water quality impairments and targeting beaches. MassDEP will review MS4 Stormwater Management Plans in targeted impaired areas to identify possible sources of pollution.
  • MassDEP will continue to work with its Stormwater Advisory Committee to develop improved recharge policies and the Stormwater Management Handbook.

Policy Development

  • Develop regulations and policies that promote better control of nutrients including phosphorus, reclaimed water regulations, performance standards for nutrient sensitive areas, nutrient loading approach, nutrient trading and watershed based permits.

1 This number includes only the major discharges on impaired segments identified in the 1998 list as neither the minor permits nor the more expansive 2004 Integrated Waters List is included in GIS yet. The actual number of discharges to impaired segments is therefore likely to be more than 158.

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Surface water discharge compliance

Summary:

Indicator: Number/Percent of discharges to surface waters in significant non-compliance with source permits

Why is this important?
Compliance with technology and water quality based permit limits is essential to insure that point source pollutant loadings do not impair the designated uses of the receiving water and achieve the goals of the surface water quality standards. MassDEP monitors compliance with those limits to ensure that the intended protection is achieved. This indicator evaluates the number of surface water discharge facilities that are in significant violation of their permit limits, as a measure of how well MassDEP is doing in obtaining compliance with the permits designed to protect surface water quality.

How are we doing?
In 2007, there were 26 NPDES facilities out of 287 (9%) in Significant Noncompliance (SNC) with their permits compared to 32 of 289 in 2006 (11%), 29 of 292 in 2005 (10%), 23 of 324 in 2004 (7%) and 41 of 314 (13%) in 2003Seventeen of these facilities violated monthly average effluent limits and nine violated other requirements such as non-monthly limits, report filings, compliance schedules and daily monitoring report (DMR) data omissions. Enforcement orders with compliance schedules have been issued or are pending for all seventeen that violated monthly average effluent limits. The effluent parameters most frequently triggering SNC at the 17 facilities were: biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), total suspended solids (TSS), copper (Cu), aluminum (Al), and total phosphorus (TP). A more detailed accounting of the specific violations is provided in the Surface Water Discharge Compliance Work Plan. Copper is the most frequently violated parameter, because many current NPDES permits have very stringent compliance limits for copper based on EPA national criteria that are difficult for most facilities to achieve, in many cases lower than is necessary to protect water quality. On January 11, 2007 revisions to the state water quality standards promulgated by MassDEP became effective pursuant to state law. The revised regulations included statewide site-specific copper criteria for 23 specific streams and stream segments. The adoption of the criteria replaced EPA's national criteria in determining NPDES permit limits for approximately 30 facilities. EPA/Region 1 approved the use of the site-specific copper criteria on March 26, 2007 as required under federal Clean Water Act. MassDEP is in the process of instituting the application of the new criteria as permits are proposed for renewal and through specific permit modification. The result will be more accurate toxicity limits for copper and less non-compliance while continuing to protect water quality without requiring unwarranted levels of investment by regulated entities in an attempt to achieve the limits. More troubling are the numbers of TSS and BOD violations associated with POTWs receiving more wastewater, as a result of excessive infiltration and inflow (I/I), than can be effectively managed. Discharge monitoring data from many POTWs indicate that mass loading limits for conventional pollutants such as BOD and TSS or percent removal criteria are being violated during wet weather events. Plans to address these violations are set forth in the work plan.

Workplan:

What's behind the numbers: The U.S. EPA's Significant Non-Compliance (SNC) report lists the facilities that do not meet the compliance thresholds set by EPA. The SNC list is generated quarterly by EPA based on data submitted by the permit holders. In general the criteria for inclusion on the list is a permit limit exceedance over a specified threshold for the same parameter any time in two consecutive quarters. In 2007, of the 287 permitted major and minor discharges (not general permits), there were a total of twenty-six (26) NPDES permitted facilities in Significant Non-Compliance: nineteen (19) for monthly average effluent limit violations and thirteen (13) for other violations such as non-monthly limits, report filings, compliance schedules and discharge monitoring reports (DMR) data omissions. Municipal and institutional facilities account for seventeen (17) of the facilities in SNC; the remaining facility was an industrial source and not reported in SNC for effluent violations. The effluent parameters most frequently triggering SNC at the seventeen (17) facilities are presented below. Detailed compliance information is also available on EPA's web site.

Copper remains the analyte causing the most SNC violations. Effluent copper limits are concentration based. The facilities in SNC are generally characterized by having a very low dilution factor (e.g. <1:2 @ 7Q10) resulting in effluent copper concentration limits of <0.010mg/L. EPA/Region 1 has issued generic administrative orders to almost all of these facilities to evaluate their ability to come into compliance with these very low concentrations. For most facilities the copper limits are very stringent, likely more stringent than necessary to protect water quality. MassDEP requires the facilities to monitor not just copper concentrations but also the toxicity of the discharge, and generally uses the toxicity standard for determining when action must be taken to improve discharge performance.

On January 11, 2007 revisions to the state water quality standards promulgated by MassDEP became effective pursuant to state law. The revised regulations included statewide site-specific copper criteria for 23 specific streams and stream segments. The adoption of the criteria replaced EPA's national criteria in determining NPDES permit limits for approximately 30 facilities. EPA/Region 1 approved the use of the site-specific copper criteria on March 26, 2007 as required under the federal Clean Water Act. MassDEP is in the process of instituting the new criteria as permits are proposed for renewal and through individual permit modification. The result will be more accurate toxicity limits for copper and increased compliance while continuing to protect water quality.

Facilities working to achieve stringent total phosphorus and copper limitations often use a treatment method that can increase the effluent discharge of Aluminum. Employing various chemicals and combinations of chemicals to maximize precipitation is site specific and operator intensive, and requires adjusting chemical doses in response to variations of pollutant concentrations and flow while not jeopardizing the essential biological treatment processes. Experimentation and process control take time. During that time exceedances are likely to occur. In most cases, the exceedances are minor and have no acute or long term environmental impact.

In 2003, EPA piloted a new system called the "Watch List". Region 1 - New England was selected to participate. Essentially, the list consists of facilities that meet specific criteria indicating that they are reporting chronic violations on the monthly DMR that are not serious enough to trigger a SNC but may be a concern if the trend continues. The intent is to be proactive in heading off environmental impacts by identifying facilities for consultation or inspection to correct the problem before it is in SNC. EPA instituted the Watch List nationally on January 1, 2004.

Some facilities may appear on both the "Watch List" and SNC list. Currently this is the case for Massachusetts where thirteen (13) facilities are on the watch list, six (6) are also on the current SNC list. The Watch List has become a useful screening tool for focusing inspections and/or enforcement on facilities with minor but chronic compliance issues.

Analysis of the data indicates that some of the violations result from POTWs receiving more flow than they can effectively manage, as a result of excessive infiltration and inflow (I/I). MassDEP and EPA have included revised language for all NPDES permits reissued to POTWs that requires them to more aggressively reduce the hydraulic and pollutant loading impacts of excessive Infiltration/Inflow. Discharge monitoring data from many POTWs indicate that mass loading limits for conventional pollutants such as BOD and TSS or percent removal criteria are being violated during wet weather events. Several of these facilities are those that are at or approaching the facility design build-out. Consequently, the impact of infiltration/inflow (I/I) normally associated with short-term high intensity storm events may not be the only issue in these situations. Relatively minor wet weather events (or a series of events) may significantly impact the routine operation and maintenance of the facility despite significant reduction of excessive I/I. EPA has made I/I issues and Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSO) in particular a national priority. MassDEP has instituted a program in concert with EPA Region 1 to identify communities with acute and/or chronic SSO problems as an enforcement priority. The following section provides further discussion on the SSO issue.

Maintaining Strong Performance
MassDEP coordinates its Surface Water Discharge Permit Compliance & Enforcement activities with the EPA primarily through the EPA/MassDEP Regional Compliance and Enforcement (C/E) meetings. The EPA Compliance and Enforcement Tracking systems (ICIS/PCS and OTIS) are used to prioritize each agency's C/E activities. The Significant Non-Compliance list (SNC) and Watch List reports generated by these systems are reviewed at each quarterly meeting with the status of each facility updated and follow-up inspections and /or enforcement actions are decided to insure the violations at each facility are addressed and resolved in a timely manner. Coordination of these activities is essential to effective and efficient use of staff and other resources.

During fiscal year 2007, basin schedule year two watersheds were targeted for inspection. MassDEP conducted a total of 112 compliance inspections of these facilities, and EPA conducted an additional 37 compliance inspections. Facility inspections are important for several reasons. First, periodic inspections (e.g. annual) remind the facility operator that both MassDEP and EPA consider proper operation and maintenance (O&M) of wastewater treatment facilities as key to protecting the public health and the environment. Second, sole reliance on DMR review does not provide a complete picture of the compliance status of the facility particularly in terms of routine operation and maintenance. Third, there are many permit conditions, such as the General Permit Conditions at 314 CMR 3.19, that address issues such as chemical storage, laboratory functions, emergency power testing, staffing and record keeping that are important to maintaining compliance. In conjunction with these conditions, compliance with MassDEP's O&M and Pretreatment Standards (314 CMR 12.00) can only be verified through a facility inspection. Fourth, inspector familiarity with both the facility and its operator supports the inspector in assisting the operator in maintaining compliance by providing technical assistance and guidance on permit matters, effectively responding to O&M problems/emergencies/violations at the facility and inquires/complaints from the public regarding a specific facility. Equally important is that the inspection process, when performed properly, is proactive in protecting the environment by identifying and requiring correction of conditions and events that, if ignored, may result in environmental harm.

As untreated combined sewer overflow (CSO) discharges cause violations of water quality standards, and thus are in violation of NPDES permits, all 24 of the state's CSO permittees are under an enforcement order of some type to move forward with planning, design, and construction of CSO abatement facilities. MassDEP will continue to monitor, track, and negotiate orders to establish deadlines for implementation of these needed CSO abatement facilities.

Sanitary Sewer Overflows: There are 218 municipalities in Massachusetts that operate and maintain a sanitary sewer system. Many of these systems are between 30 and 100 years old and subject to leaks (I/I), blockages, pump failures and capacity restrictions. MassDEP learns of SSO events generally through the required municipality notification to the appropriate regional office, as required by regulation, or by citizen complaint. Historically, formal enforcement action against municipalities that have SSO problems related to capacity and/or situations where recurring events have not been adequately corrected. In addition, some of these actions have been related to CSO issues and long-term control plans as well as CWMP/Facility Planning and compliance with the I/I provision of NPDES permits.

In general, most situations where recurring SSOs are a problem the municipality or district is under MassDEP enforcement to address and correct the source of the problem. Usually these are hydraulic capacity issues in the system or sewerage pump stations. The cause cited in the majority of reported SSO events is a blockage. These are generally one-time events routinely corrected by removal of the in-line blockage.

EPA and MassDEP targeted 16 communities for detailed evaluation and resolution of SSO issues in 2006 and 2007. Through the use of enforceable information requests to selected communities, the agencies are evaluating the efficacy of each community's implementation plan for preventing and minimizing SSO events. Many communities, including Worcester, Fitchburg, Holyoke, Chicopee and Taunton, are at various stages of implementing multi-million dollar treatment facility and collection system improvements to address wet weather issues. EPA and MassDEP will continue to monitor existing SSO reduction projects and identify those communities that need to dedicate more effort and resources to reduce SSO events in a timely manner.

Improving Results
NPDES Point Source Permits: In the past, each region has informally developed inspection schedules with EPA. Last year, a formal plan was implemented. MassDEP and EPA will continue under the formal plan that was implemented last year to ensure that inspection resources are directed to the highest priority problems. MassDEP's enforcement and compliance efforts will be focused on the most significant water quality challenges, rather than proceeding on a strict basin schedule. The program will select compliance work according to significant threats to public health and/or the environment, as well as priority water resource needs based on our knowledge of impaired waters rather than simply inspecting all Basin Schedule Year 2 facilities. During Federal Fiscal Year 2008, in addition to inspecting Basin schedule Year 2 facilities, facilities discharging to impaired water bodies will be targeted, particularly those discharging to the Taunton, Ten Mile, and Blackstone Basins, as part of the nitrogen loading evaluation to Mount Hope Bay and Narragansett Bay, regardless of Basin schedule year. MassDEP will complete a comprehensive evaluation of nutrient removal capabilities and options at 22 permitted facilities in the Ten Mile, Blackstone, and Connecticut River basins in the fall of 2007. The inspections will assist MassDEP in developing a point source nutrient loading reduction and implementation plan to address impacts to the bays. Other facilities discharging to other surface waters that are impaired for nutrients or bacteria will also be targeted where the DMR review indicates high levels of nutrients or bacteria are discharged.

Inspection Prioritization: The 2008 inspection schedule will be based upon review of the following: Basin schedule Year 2 facilities (Charles, North Coastal, Ten Mile, Housatonic and Hudson); wet weather SSOs municipalities; EPA's 2008 NPDES re-issuance list and the remainder of the 2008 list [inspect facility prior to permit re-issuance]. Watch and SNC lists will be reviewed quarterly and inspection of facilities on the list for violations other than copper or reporting failures will be conducted in addition to facilities which have violated due to excessive flows and other regional office priorities. A meeting of the program manager and the regional offices will be held to discuss the inspection plan and develop a final plan for submittal to EPA.

Facilities that are operating pursuant to an Administrative Consent Order and/or permit compliance schedules will be reviewed to determine compliance with milestone dates, with a particular focus on facilities located in the Taunton, Ten Mile, Blackstone and Nashua basins as well as others discharging to surface waters impaired for nutrients or bacteria.

Copper: As stated above, in early 2007 MassDEP promulgated revisions to the state water quality standards that established site-specific copper criteria for 23 stream and stream segments to discontinue the use of EPA national copper criteria in developing individual permit limits. The EPA-approved site-specific criteria will result in permits that more accurately determine acceptable effluent concentrations that are protective of water quality and attainable with existing technology and proper operation and maintenance. Toxicity testing data will continue to be used to monitor for any toxic effects from heavy metals (including copper) or other pollutants.

MassDEP will continue to review the annual I/I Reduction Reports submitted by POTWs. In conjunction with this review, wet weather flow will be evaluated in terms of its impact in relation to annual average design and peak flow to the plant. Compliance with conventional pollutant limits (including percent removal) will be used to screen or identify those facilities that appear to be adversely impacted by I/I and are approaching design capacity under normal conditions. In the past, hydraulic capacity did not become a reportable issue until the facility reached 80% of its design flow for 90 consecutive days. Upon further review, MassDEP will be including in NPDES permits a condition that where in any given calendar year the average annual flow exceeds eighty percent (80%) of the facilities design flow, a report will be submitted to MassDEP describing what steps will be taken in order to remain in compliance with permit limits in particular flow.

POTW Staffing: Adequate facility staffing is essential for the proper operation and maintenance of any wastewater treatment facility, which is necessary to achieve consistent compliance. MassDEP has observed a significant reduction in staffing at many facilities over the past few years. This may be explained in part by the evolution of technology to a point where many routine operational functions have come automated. However, another contributing factor is that operating budgets are being tightened at all levels - public and private. There is concern that as operators are forced to do more with less, preventive maintenance and effective operation may suffer, leading to an increase in non-compliance with permit requirements. From a C/E perspective this is an important issue. While effluent limits may still be able to be attained over the short term, long term impacts to due to lack of maintenance and repair will eventually lead to major and chronic problems over the long term.

MassDEP examined the POTW staffing problem with the goal of updating the EPA guidance of the early 1970s. The review concluded that the ever-increasing complexity associated with more stringent water quality based permit limits and emerging water quality standards for nutrients is requiring facilities to maximize the capabilities of existing processes and employ emerging technologies to achieve compliance. Further, no standard staffing criteria or guidance for the latter issue have been developed in terms of routine O&M and ancillary impacts such as residuals processing/disposal. Both the quantity and quality of the residuals from many of the new processes (e.g. filtration units) can significantly affect staffing needs. Massachusetts is not unique in being faced with this problem. MassDEP, with the assistance of the NEIWPCC, conducted a national survey of other state regulatory agencies and wastewater treatment organizations that found no new or updated guidance was being used and that the staffing criteria are a universal problem.

As a result, MassDEP in concert with the other New England states and EPA Region 1, has initiated a formal study through the NEIWPCC to update the POTW staffing guidance. A New England workgroup of state regulators, operators, design engineers, and equipment manufacturer representatives has also been established to oversee and review the study. Preliminary report recommendations are currently being discussed and piloted with operators at selected municipal facilities. The ground-truthing phase should be completed by September 2007.

In the interim, MassDEP will continue to evaluate staffing issues on a case-by-case basis and expand its review of a correlation between poor facility O&M performance and staffing levels.

Stormwater: To ensure that MS4s are working to implement the Phase II requirements in targeted impaired basins, MassDEP will review available information including nonpoint source reports, the 303d list, and watershed assessments to target geographic areas where stormwater may be contributing to water quality impairments. MassDEP has developed an internal screening protocol for enforcement follow-up on complaints relative to reported high bacteria counts in stormwater system discharges (both wet and dry weather situations). The protocol allows field staff to prioritize their enforcement effort on those facilities posing threat to the public health and the environment.

Combined Sewer Overflows: MassDEP, in cooperation with EPA, will continue to strengthen requirements on CSO permittees to more accurately report activations and volumes of CSO discharges, and perhaps more importantly, to use this information to expand the public notification program so that any users of the impacted water resources are notified of the increased health risks. These requirements will be established for all CSO permittees as elements of their "Nine Minimum Controls" programs, which are explicitly required in all CSO NPDES permits.

Sanitary Sewer Overflows: In addition to the activities related to SSOs as described above, MassDEP has developed a standard SSO Reporting Form. The Department has notified POTWs and DPWs of the reporting requirements and the availability of the new SSO Reporting Form. In order to be in compliance with the reporting requirements, the standard form must be submitted to the Department by mail, fax, electronically or hand delivered. No other form will be accepted. The SSO Reporting Form is also available on the MassDEP web page.

By reinforcing the reporting requirements and the consequences associated with non-compliance, the desired result will be an increase of reporting and the accuracy of the information supplied. MassDEP will coordinate enforcement activities associated with SSOs with EPA so as not to duplicate efforts. In addition, the Department will be able to focus its resources on the more serious violators.

eDEP: The program has invested considerable time and effort to develop electronic overflow reporting in an effort to collected this data electronically and thereby improve its ability to analyze the information to focus resources in an effort to eliminate chronic SSOs. This effort is continuing in Fiscal Year 2008 and will be expanded to include gathering data of sanitary sewer connections and extensions

Industrial Pretreatment: Fifty POTWs are required to implement industrial pretreatment programs (IPP) in Massachusetts. In total, there are approximately 1700 indirect dischargers in the state, with approximately 600 of them located outside the MWRA service area. POTWs submit annual reports to MassDEP and EPA detailing their activities for the past year, including remedies for any noncompliance by any industrial users. Neither EPA nor MassDEP has mandated any new IPP programs for the past seven years, though growth and industrial development have occurred during that time that merit consideration of whether new IPPs are warranted. At present, neither MassDEP nor EPA conducts much oversight of the IPP implementation due to staffing constraints.

MassDEP revised its sanitary sewer extension and connection regulations (314 CMR 7.00) to streamline the existing permitting process in order to eliminate duplicative review by the local permitting authority followed by MassDEP. It is anticipated that these changes would free up approximately 4.0 FTEs of staff time that would be redirected toward other environmentally beneficial areas such as reducing the level of noncompliance in the groundwater permitting program, working with municipalities to eliminate sanitary sewage overflows (SSOs) by implementing adequate infiltration/inflow (I/I) identification and elimination programs.

Detailed Work Plan
NPDES Point Source Permits:

  • Identify priority facilities discharging to Charles, Ten Mile, North Coastal, Housatonic, and Hudson River basins.
  • Conduct close review of DMRs and compliance with milestones in any applicable AO/ACO and/or permit compliance schedules for these priority facilities.
  • Review and evaluate DMR data and annual I/I reports with respect to impacts of flow on POTW performance and annual average design flow as part of annual compliance inspection process. Evaluate the need to revise the threshold for notification and evaluation.
  • Continue to collect and submit Inspection Forms to EPA for recording in the federal ICIS/PCS & ECHO data bases.
  • Continue to attend and report on quarterly compliance meetings with the regional offices and EPA; arrange for IWW to be part of the quarterly review and reporting.
  • Evaluate SNC as an appropriate indicator and effective means of focusing enforcement efforts.
  • Continue moving toward electronic data reporting and tracking of NPDES permit related data.
  • Continue to manage on-going POTW and stream water quality nutrient evaluation studies.

Stormwater:

  • Update MassDEP's Stormwater Management Handbook to promote recharge of stormwater.
  • Develop recharge offsets for communities seeking to recharge within Public Water Supply areas.
  • Conduct close review of stormwater plans for Assabet, Nashua, and Charles Basins, as well as other identified priority plans. [Link to NPS Workplan]
  • Respond in accordance with MassDEP's protocol to reports/complaints of high bacteria contamination in dry weather storm drain discharges.

Sanitary Sewer Overflows:

  • Continue to log and track SSO reporting.
  • Continue to initiate enforcement against serious chronic violators.
  • Establish an electronic tracking system to focus on SSO reporting and minimization to reduce the environmental impacts of SSO events.
  • Conduct wet weather inspections of sanitary sewer collection systems.
  • Coordinate with EPA on targeting communities for SSO evaluations and enforcement cases.

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Groundwater discharge permit compliance

Summary:

Indicator: Number/Percent of Discharges to Ground Waters in Significant Noncompliance with Permits

Why is this important?
Permits designed to protect public health and the environment are only effective if the permittee complies with the limits imposed. Maintaining compliance with these permits helps assure that drinking water and surface waters are protected from pollution.

How are we doing?
In early 2000, an evaluation of the facilities regulated by the Groundwater Discharge Permit Program demonstrated that over 80% of the facilities were out of compliance with one or more program requirements. In response to this finding, MassDEP adopted a Comprehensive Compliance and Enforcement Strategy in FY 2001. The first 3 years of the strategy, the significant noncompliance rate decreased to 23%. However, FY 2004 showed a slight increase in this percentage and FY 2005 & 2006 showed a greater increase in noncompliance with rates of 57.5% and 63.5% respectively. The reason for the increases is due to several factors, two of which are the transition of enforcement reviews and enforcement action issuance from Boston to the regional offices and the initiation of electronic reporting which allowed some leniency for missing DMRs. In FY 2007, the noncompliance rate was reduced to 47.8%. Cursory review shows that effluent violations continue to be the largest contributors to the noncompliance rate. Boston will continue to work with the regional offices in the effort to improve compliance.

Workplan:

What's behind the numbers: In early 2000, an evaluation of the facilities regulated by the Groundwater Discharge Permit Program demonstrated that over 80% of the facilities were out of compliance with one or more program requirements. In response to this finding, MassDEP adopted a Comprehensive Compliance and Enforcement Strategy (CCS) in Fiscal Year 2001. The CCS established thresholds for significant noncompliance (SNC), resulting in the timely issuance of Notices of Noncompliance (NONs) for these SNC violations and establishing consistent monthly reviews of Discharge Monitoring Report (DMR) data. The four requirements deemed as surrogate measures for environmental benefits were: DMR submittal, timely renewal application submittal, groundwater quality standard violations as evidenced by monitoring well results, and permit effluent limitations. For the first 3 years of the strategy, the significant noncompliance rate decreased to 23%. However, FY 2004 showed a slight increase in this percentage and FY 2005 & 2006 showed a greater increase in noncompliance with rates of 57.5% and 63.5% respectively. The reason for the increases was due to several factors, two of which are the transition of enforcement reviews and enforcement action issuance from Boston to the regional offices and the initiation of electronic reporting which allowed some leniency for missing DMRs. In FY 2007, the noncompliance rate was reduced to 47.8%. Review of the four compliance measures shows that effluent violations and missing DMR violations, typically the largest contributors to the noncompliance rate, showed significant reductions from the past two years while the other measures were relatively unchanged.

FY03-07 Percent of Facilities with Enforcement Threshold Violations by Category of Violation

  • The Bureau of Resource Protection (BRP) reduced the overall SNC rate from an estimated baseline of 80% down to 23% in just three years through FY 2003, even while the number of groundwater discharge permits increased by 30% over that same time period. However, while the rate increased to 63.5% in fiscal Year 2006 due to the reasons outlined above, FY07 showed a reduction to 47.8%.
  • SNC violations for DMR submittal, permit renewal submittal, and groundwater quality standards (monitoring well violations) fell to 1%, 2% and 5% respectively in FY 2003, showed an increase in FY 2006 to 26%, 5.9% and 9.2% respectively, but in FY 2007 were back to 7.8%, 8.2% and 7% respectively.
  • Effluent limit SNC violations comprise the greatest percentage of SNC violations:
    • Total nitrogen (TN) violations comprise the greatest percentage of effluent SNC,
    • Facilities with effluent TN SNC during the first year of operation typically accounted for nearly half of the TN SNC facilities for that given year

Also of note, though not included in the above analysis, is noncompliance with the effluent surfactant limit. For a small group of groundwater permits, namely laundromats and car washes, meeting this effluent limit has proven to be very problematic: eight out of ten laundromats show repeated violations for surfactants in the past year. The smaller group of carwashes also shows noncompliance but at a lower, less consistent rate.

Maintaining Strong Performance
Upon its inception, the Groundwater CCS had a positive effect on reducing the percent of significant non-compliance (SNC) program wide. The most pronounced success has been the near elimination of the administrative violations of discharge monitoring report (DMR) submittal and renewal application submittal. There has been a spike in violations in FY 2005 and 2006, due to the initial implementation of electronic reporting but that was considered to be temporary until permittees gain more experience with the reporting format. This was borne out in the reduction in overall violations in FY 2007. However, due to difficulties that permittee's experienced with using electronic reporting, MassDEP will be coordinating with the information technology office (ITO) staff to make uploading the information easier. Past program history indicates that in order to maintain such a high level of compliance with administrative requirements and continue to decrease the percent SNC with other permit program violations, the program must continue implementing the Groundwater CCS. In the beginning BRP Boston staff implemented the CCS. However, the strategy called for the transition of the groundwater CCS to the regions and, as the number of permits continues to increase statewide, regional implementation becomes more of a necessity. Of critical importance to transitioning this program from Boston to the regions and maintaining the CCSs strong performance will be the enhancement of the groundwater data system and the implementation/enhancement of electronic reporting. The program began the transition to electronic reporting in July 2004. Electronic methods of reporting for permittees and improved tracking and analysis tools for regional staff were developed to allow efficient and timely review of compliance data.

The four critical elements of maintaining strong performance are:

  • Continue the issuance of Notices of Noncompliance (NONs) and pursuit of higher level enforcement (HLE) per Groundwater CCS guidelines;
  • Continue the issuance of renewal application reminder letters;
  • Finalize development and implementation of electronic reporting and database enhancements;
  • Transition CCS review to regions once data system improvements are made.

To evaluate continued effectiveness, the following measures should be tracked:

Measures: percent overall SNC
                 percent SNC for DMR submittal
                 percent SNC for Renewal Submittal
                 percent SNC for Monitoring Well violations
                 percent SNC for Effluent Violations
                 percent SNC for Miscellaneous - i.e., O&M
                 percent permittees who employ electronic reporting

Improving Results
The groundwater data analysis has shown that although violations of reporting and monitoring requirements have dramatically decreased, effluent violations continue to be a problem. Further investigation has determined that the major component of effluent SNC is noncompliance with total nitrogen limits. Nitrogen is a pollutant of concern due to the public health threat of nitrogen in drinking water, the difficulty of removing it from a water source, and the environmental issue of too much nitrogen in coastal waters contributing to the eutrophication of those water bodies. Consequently, the groundwater program plans to direct its efforts towards improving compliance with nitrogen limits. The data analysis has revealed that facilities in their first year of operation are one group to focus on, but the nature of the pollutant itself warrants focusing the program's efforts on nitrogen violations in Zone IIs, impaired waterways, and coastal areas in order to best protect human health and the environment.

Analysis of the Groundwater CCS data has helped to define the nature of the most prevalent type of significant noncompliance, but in order to fully assess and improve results program wide the DMR data review results and facility inspection results need to be better connected. Moving the DMR reviews to the regions not only closed this gap, providing a benefit to the analysis of the overall compliance of the facilities prior to conducting inspections. In order to improve overall compliance in CCS implementation, the groundwater data system needs to be further enhanced to provide easier electronic reporting capabilities, comprehensive data, tracking and querying tools need to be provided to assist regional staff in facility compliance evaluations. Since MassDEP is solely responsible for the compliance with groundwater discharges, additional staff in some regions may have to be redirected to spend more time in CCS implementation.

The steps the program needs to take in order to improve compliance results are:

  • Regional inspectors increase attention to facilities with total nitrogen (TN) SNC, particularly facilities in startup, those in Zone IIs or those located near impaired waterways or coastal areas (for example, violation of TN triggers an inspection, not just an NON).
  • Work with regional staff to develop strategy to improve overall compliance.
  • Development and implementation of electronic reporting and database enhancements.
  • Evaluate the database to determine if changes are needed to assist the regions in DMR reviews.
  • Adopt protocol for inspection follow up.
  • Regions continue the issuance of NONs and pursuit of HLE per Groundwater CCS guidelines.
  • Boston - maintain database and data entry.

To evaluate improvements made the following measures should be tracked:
Measures: percent Effluent SNC
                percent Effluent TN SNC
                percent Effluent TN SNC for first year of operation
                percent Schools with Effluent TN SNC

The other area where results could be improved is compliance by laundromats and carwashes with effluent surfactant limits. Due to limited staff, the small number of dischargers in this group and the less hazardous nature of the pollutant, this issue is not as critical as that of the nitrogen noncompliance. However, as time and staff resources allow, the program will address this issue.

In addition to continuation of the CCS, Groundwater Discharge compliance/enforcement efforts will attempt to address nutrient impairment issues as discussed in the accompanying workplan for Control of Point Source Discharges to Groundwater by targeting inspections in impaired areas, and ensuring that facilities under administrative consent orders remain in compliance with the terms and conditions of the orders.

MassDEP has revised its sanitary sewer extension and connection regulations (314 CMR 7.00) to streamline the existing permitting process in order to eliminate duplicative review by the local permitting authority followed by MassDEP. It is anticipated that these changes would free up approximately 4.0 FTEs of staff time that would be redirected toward other environmentally beneficial areas such as reducing the level of noncompliance in the groundwater permitting program, working with municipalities to eliminate sanitary sewage overflows (SSO's) by implementing adequate infiltration/inflow (I/I) identification and elimination programs.

Detailed Workplans

  • Establish with regional staff inspection protocols and priority inspection sites and determine the status of facilities under Administrative Consent Orders (ACO).
  • Continue with the development and implementation of electronic reporting for groundwater permittees, with the intent of making it more user friendly for permittees.
  • Continue to develop enhancements to the groundwater database.
  • Continue to work with the regional staff on implementing the Groundwater CCS reviews and enforcement.
  • Continue regional issuance of NONs and pursuit of HLE as specified by strategy.
  • Maintain database and data entry.
  • Regional Inspections:
    1. Inspect TN SNC facilities based on inspection protocol established at #1
    2. Inspect other facilities near priority-impaired waters (Taunton, Nashua).
    3. Inspect Year 2 basin facilities (Fiscal Year 2008: Hudson, Housatonic, Ten Mile, Charles and North Coastal) to the extent necessary to protect public health and environment and time allows following inspections of identified priority facilities.
  • Provide technical and compliance assistance to permittees as required.
  • Revise the Groundwater Regulations to provide clarity on permitting issues and provide a general permit for situations where the environment can be protected by controlling discharges with standard permit conditions.

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Groundwater discharge permitting

Summary:

Indicator: Number/percent of permits with current water quality based limits

Why is this important?
Discharges into groundwater have the potential to affect the quality of both drinking water and surface water. Permits for groundwater discharges therefore must contain limits that protect groundwater quality. This indicator evaluates the number of groundwater discharge permits that have current water quality based effluent limits that protect groundwater.

How are we doing?
There are 257 permitted discharges to groundwater in the Commonwealth, of which 236 are for discharges of sanitary wastewater as shown on the chart. The remainder consists of laundromats, carwashes, and other non-sanitary discharges. For the sanitary discharges, 209 of these permits have limits that are protective of water quality. Of the 27 permits that do not have current water quality based limits, 7 are nutrient loading approach permits, 18 report nitrogen but have no limit, and 2 have no limits or monitoring requirements. Even where permits are protective, they are only effective if the permittee complies with the limits, a measure that is also tracked. (See compliance with groundwater discharge permits). In addition, as MassDEP gains scientific knowledge about the contribution of groundwater to surface water quality we learn that permit limits previously thought to be protective may need to be revised. For example, the nutrient loading to many Massachusetts embayments and inland waters is approaching or has exceeded the limits needed to maintain ecological health. Based on the data collected to date, it appears that the primary cause of these eutrophication problems for marine waters is an overabundance of nitrogen and for inland waters is an overabundance of phosphorus discharged within the watersheds of these water bodies. Groundwater discharges are only one source of these pollutants, but permit limits need to be continually evaluated as scientific knowledge advances.

Workplan:

What's behind the numbers: There are 257 permitted discharges to groundwater, in accordance with 314 CMR 5.00, equating to approximately 31 million gallons per day (MGD) of flow. Only 27 of these permits do not have current water quality based limits. Seven of these are nutrient loading approach permits; 18 report nitrogen but have no limit; and 2 have no limits or monitoring requirements. In addition, there are 17 permitted industrial discharges to groundwater, at least 50 confirmed Title 5 large systems, a high number of unconfirmed Title 5 large systems,1 and an estimated 650,000 Title 5 systems statewide discharging to groundwater.

Pollution from groundwater discharges remains a significant problem for both groundwater and surface water quality. The 2004 Integrated List of Waters for Massachusetts identifies 1,097 surface water body segments as impaired while only 52% of the assessed state waters are known to fully meet designated uses. Nutrients and pathogens are the most significant cause of impairment. While the connection between the known impairments and ground water discharges needs to be further assessed, in many cases, wastewater discharges to the ground, particularly from septic systems, contribute to the impairment. Nutrient loading of many Massachusetts embayments and inland waters is approaching, or has exceeded, the limits of their ability to maintain ecological health. Critical ecological resources are at risk, including shellfish and finfish habitat, eelgrass beds, and the recreational value of the waters. Based on the data collected to date, it appears that the primary cause of these eutrophication problems for marine waters is an overabundance of nitrogen, and for inland waters, an overabundance of phosphorus discharged within the watersheds of these water bodies.

Maintaining Strong Performance
Permitting: The Groundwater Discharge Permit Program will continue to review applications for new discharges and permit renewals for consistency with water quality standards, and Discharge Monitoring Reports (DMR) to ensure compliance with permit limits. The Title 5 Program will continue to review applications for individual on-site treatment and disposal systems and provide assistance to Boards of Health in the administration of Title 5 at the local level.

eDEP: The groundwater program has invested considerable time and effort developing electronic Discharge Monitoring Reports in an effort to increase the amount of data collected to improve its ability to analyze the performance of permitted facilities. This effort is continuing in FY 2008 and may be expanded to include monitoring data received on Title 5 Innovative/Alternative systems (I/A). This potential expansion will greatly enhance the program's ability to assess compliance with permit limits.

The Massachusetts Estuaries Project (MEP): MassDEP has contracted with the School of Marine Science and Technology (SMAST) from UMass Dartmouth to analyze the embayments, develop computer models, and outline options for remediation to better control nutrient loadings to Massachusetts waters and particularly embayments. While there are many sources of nitrogen, the major contributor in most embayments is wastewater disposal. Following the computer modeling of the nitrogen inputs and sensitivity of all 89 embayments in southeastern Massachusetts, a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) will be prepared for each embayment outlining the allowable nitrogen loading and available strategies for meeting that particular water quality goal. MassDEP, following the development of appropriate policies and possible regulatory modifications in support of controlling nitrogen, intends to provide both technical and financial assistance so that the impacted communities and the regional planning agencies can choose the most appropriate option(s) to achieve the desired water quality result.

Nutrient Controls through Title 5 Innovative and Alternative Technologies: The Title 5 Innovative Alternative Technology Program has issued 14 approvals for nitrogen reducing technologies, and one for a phosphorus reducing technology. The program will continue to review applications for nutrient reducing technologies and monitor the performance of the Title 5 systems installed pursuant to the approvals. Because optimal performance of these systems is dependent upon proper operation and maintenance, the program will continue its efforts to improve the accountability of the technology proponents and system owners.

Revisions to Groundwater Permit Regulations: MassDEP is in the process of revising its groundwater permit regulations (314 CMR 5.00) to streamline the existing permitting process. The proposed changes will not only increase protection of public health and the environment but also will simplify and reduce the regulatory process for the public. The provisions of the ground water quality standards (314 CMR 6.00) and the UIC regulations (310 CMR 27.00) will be incorporated into 314 CMR 5.00, thus eliminating the need for 314 CMR 6.00 and 310 CMR 27.00. In addition to individual groundwater permits, a new category of general permit, similar to what is used in the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program, will be introduced for several classes of discharges. Many other changes have been proposed to streamline the process and substantially reduce the time required to obtain a groundwater discharge permit.

Improving Results
Protective permits can only be effective if all of the discharges requiring permits do in fact have permits. MassDEP is uncertain whether the entire universe of groundwater discharges has been captured in the permitting program. However, it is likely that the unsewered areas of the state contain large numbers of facilities discharging effluent to the ground without adequate treatment. There are a number of categories of facilities that seem to have fewer permits issued than likely need them. Preliminary efforts to investigate this issue have been inconclusive. In an attempt to better define the number of facilities that should have groundwater discharge permits but do not, the program will seek to identify such facilities as part of its evaluation of facilities discharging to identified priority waters. As part of this effort, the program will also identify any remaining unconfirmed large Title 5 systems.

Nutrient control, both for inland waters and coastal embayments, presents the greatest water quality challenge for MassDEP and is important both for protection of the environment and human health (avoiding nitrates in drinking water). In order to improve control of nutrient discharges, the program will prioritize permitting in areas that supply drinking water or contribute to the impairment of surface water and will focus on developing regulatory approaches that are more successful at controlling nutrients. Currently, only 212 of the 257 permitted groundwater permits are presently identified in GIS. Of those, 201 are located within 1/2 mile of sensitive receptors such as watercourses, wetlands, and water supply wells, and 174 within one-quarter mile.2

Based on the data collected to date, it is apparent that the typical level of treatment achieved by a standard Title 5 system or even an I/A system approved for nitrogen reduction does not remove enough nitrogen from the effluent to allow achievement of water quality standards in some areas. Accordingly, new and innovative approaches to wastewater treatment and disposal must be developed.

While only 10 groundwater discharge permits contain limits for phosphorus, 171 now require monitoring for phosphorus in downgradient wells. In order to gain a better understanding of how phosphorus discharged in effluent behaves, the program requires new and renewed discharges to monitor for phosphorus in the effluent and downgradient wells. Phosphorus removal may be required on a case-by-case basis depending on the results either of the monitoring for existing facilities or the hydrogeological work for proposed facilities.

To improve control over discharges of nutrients, MassDEP will develop policies and regulations to encourage wastewater reuse, minimize nutrient inputs from nonpoint sources, and facilitate stronger oversight of Title 5 systems by local management districts. MassDEP has received a grant from EPA to work with MEP communities to develop watershed-wide permitting and nutrient trading approaches to better control nutrients in these watersheds, and as part of this effort will seek opportunities to advance this policy agenda.

MassDEP has revised its sanitary sewer extension and connection regulations (314 CMR 7.00) to streamline the existing permitting process in order to eliminate duplicative review by the local permitting authority followed by MassDEP. It is anticipated that these changes will free-up approximately 4.0 FTEs of staff time that will be redirected toward other environmentally beneficial areas such as the reduction of the level of noncompliance in the groundwater permitting program and working with municipalities to eliminate sanitary sewage overflows (SSOs) by implementing adequate infiltration/inflow (I/I) identification and elimination programs.

Areas of lower priority work have been identified in order to free up staff time to redirect to the above-described tasks. These disinvestments include: ceasing routine review of plans and specifications for non SRF-funded wastewater treatment plants and instead relying on the certification of the engineers designing those facilities; deferring to Boards of Health for many Title 5 permits where MassDEP is the second layer of review through presumptive approvals; revising the framework for Title 5 I/A provisional approval technologies to eliminate MassDEP review of system design and increasing the level of involvement in system design and oversight by the technology proponent.

Detailed Workplan

  • Permitting
    • Identify groundwater discharges (including unpermitted discharges) in proximity of impaired waters and sensitive receptors.
    • Evaluate potential contribution to the impairment by the identified facilities.
    • Issuance of permits will be focused on facilities with nutrient control needs which discharge to impaired waters. The 2008 priority watersheds will be: Hudson, Housatonic, Charles, Ten Mile, and North Coastal. The permits will be issued based upon a TMDL analysis, which should result in long-term water quality improvements.
  • Update GIS to include all known groundwater permits.
  • Where cause of nutrient impairment is unknown, conduct watershed survey to identify potential sources of impairment.
  • Develop new regulations and policies.
    • Revise the Groundwater Regulations and develop Reuse regulations to provide flexibility while maintaining greater protection of the groundwater and surface waters while also promoting the reuse of wastewater in an effort to keep water local.
    • Develop policies that promote better management of Title 5 systems such as local management districts.
    • Develop regulations and policies that promote better control of nutrients including phosphorus, reclaimed water regulations, performance standards for nutrient sensitive areas, nutrient loading approach, nutrient trading and watershed based permits.

1 The data regarding Title 5 large systems is not current. One of the workplan priorities discussed below is updating our information about large Title 5 systems.
2 This information is based on the 1998 List of Impaired Waters. The actual number of discharges near impaired waters may in fact be higher using the newer Integrated Waters List.

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Control pollution from nonpoint sources

Summary:

Why is this important?
Nonpoint source pollution or "polluted runoff" - which enters Massachusetts water bodies from septic systems, agricultural uses, and run off from roads, parking lots, construction sites, lawns and other locations - is now the dominant cause of water quality problems to Massachusetts lakes, rivers and coastal areas. Point sources still have significant impacts in certain water bodies, but across the state nonpoint source pollution affect more total miles and acres of water. The wide range of land-use activities and sources contributing to nonpoint source pollution and our lack of data on total loading of pollutants from these varied sources make development of an indicator to measure the mitigation of nonpoint source pollution difficult. Nevertheless, control of nonpoint sources is clearly critical to improving the quality of Massachusetts waters.

How are we doing?
There are a number of on-going federal, state and local programs aimed at reducing nonpoint source pollution, including new stormwater control requirements for many towns, reductions in illicit connections to storm drains, and grants programs to implement practices to prevent and control polluted runoff and educate communities on the damage caused by the cumulative effects of many small sources of pollution. However, there are also disturbing negative trends, such as the dramatic increase in the percent of impervious surfaces in the state which generally increases stormwater runoff and pollution. Because MassDEP does not have comprehensive monitoring data for Massachusetts's waterbodies, particularly in headwater areas where the effects of nonpoint source pollution are likely to be greatest, and we do not have meaningful water quality trends data, we cannot say with confidence how we are doing at controlling nonpoint sources of pollution. MassDEP's goal is to increase monitoring in headwater streams and to develop a statewide fixed site network in the next year to address some of these data gaps. In addition, data is now being collected to evaluate the results of nonpoint source projects. That data is being incorporated into the EPA Grant Reporting and Tracking System (GRITS) database which will document the effectiveness of best management practices and other nonpoint source remediation efforts.

Workplan:

What's behind the numbers: Nationwide, states report that nonpoint source pollution, in particular polluted runoff from stormwater, is the leading remaining cause of water quality problems. Water from nonpoint sources can contain and transport sediments, metals (copper, cadmium, chromium, lead, zinc), nutrients (nitrates, phosphates, ammonia), salt, petroleum products and coliform bacteria among other materials. In Massachusetts, polluted runoff to waterbodies has affected aquatic plant and animal life in streams and lakes, closed shellfish beds, reduced recreational activities such as boating and swimming, and increased existing flood conditions caused by natural events. Due to an increase in impervious surfaces, stormwater runoff becomes a natural transportation system for pollutants. Untreated pollutants such as soil that erodes from construction sites, cigarette butts and other litter from parking lots, antifreeze and oil that has dripped from cars, fertilizers and pesticides from turf management, and grit and salt left from de-icing operations on roadways can be deposited into our waterways.

The Massachusetts 2004 Integrated List of Waters lists approximately 848 impaired water body segments due to a pollutant. Although point sources have significant impacts in some watersheds, nonpoint sources are emerging as the leading cause of water quality problems in Massachusetts. Nonpoint sources are likely the primary source of pollution for our lakes and coastal areas, which together account for approximately 66% of the impaired water segments. Rivers, which account for about 34% of the impaired waters, are affected by a combination of point and nonpoint sources.

Approximately 70% of all impaired segments in the Commonwealth are impaired because of excessive nutrients or bacterial contamination. Nutrient and bacterial contamination from non-point sources alone, such as stormwater runoff and surface runoff from the land affect approximately half of the segments listed as impaired.1
The major categories of nonpoint source pollution by waterbody are summarized in the following table, based on the MassDEP's initial 1988/1989 Nonpoint Source Assessment of problem areas. The NPS Assessment was compiled from a statewide municipal survey, which reported a 40% response rate, and from assessment information provided in the 1988 305(b) report. In 1988, a total of 1,550 river miles, 22,016 lake acres, and 182 square miles of marine waters were assessed statewide. The evaluation concluded that of these assessed waters, approximately 1,066 river miles (69%), 22,016 lake acres (100%), and 127 square miles of marine waters (70%) were impacted by non-point sources. The summary table provides a breakdown of the 1988 Assessment showing the estimated percentage of the assessed waters for each non-point source category.

Note: the percentages add up to more than 100% because some segments are affected by more than one type of nonpoint source.

CategoriesRivers (%)Lakes (%)Coastal (%)
Agriculture2.52.60.9
Construction-2.6-
Urban Runoff46.880.848.5
Resource Extraction0.1--
Land Disposal (1)13.671.213.5
Hydrologic Modification0.5--
Other (2)28.84.97.8
Unknown2.80.030.2

Notes:
(1) Land disposal includes Title 5 (septic systems)
(2) Other includes atmospheric deposition, marinas, boat discharges, natural, etc.

MassDEP has not yet developed a good measure of our effectiveness at controlling nonpoint sources of pollution. Three indicators under consideration are:

  1. % of impervious land area within the 27 watersheds with an estimate of nutrient loading changes that would be expected as a result of the changes in impervious surface,
  2. the number of Phase II Stormwater MS4 (small municipal separate storm sewer system) discharge plans developed and on schedule for implementation (not an indicator of water quality, but perhaps useful as a surrogate for controls of the most common source of nonpoint source pollution),
  3. using the EPA Grants Reporting and Tracking System (GRITS) database to track pollutant load reductions resulting from implementation of nonpoint source grants.

The above noted indicators will be further developed and assessed in FY08.

Maintaining Strong Performance

1. Nonpoint Source Management Plan Implementation

MassDEP's Nonpoint Source Management Plan sets forth an integrated strategy and identifies programs (including Section 319 Nonpoint Source Competitive Grants) to prevent, control and reduce pollution from nonpoint sources and protects and improves the quality of waters of the Commonwealth. The Clean Water Act, Section 319, specifies the contents of the Management Plan to ensure that the plan realistically addresses all of the major categories of nonpoint source pollution in the state (Volume III, The Statewide Plan and Its Goals). The Plan is an implementation strategy for best management practices with attention given to funding sources and a milestone schedule. The strategy was developed to provide a roadmap of implementation activities and tools available to address nonpoint source related problems. Implementation activities include regulatory enforcement, technical assistance, education, training, technology transfer, and pilot and full-scale projects. The plan was initially developed several years ago and was updated in FFY2007 to enhance opportunities to utilize State Revolving Fund (SRF) funds for implementation.

Statewide implementation of Massachusetts Nonpoint Source Management Plan is being done through a wide variety of federal, state, local and non-profit programs, partnerships and project activities. More specifically,

  1. Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management's (CZM) Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program, which is an integral part of MassDEP's Nonpoint Source Management Plan, lays out specific nonpoint source implementation actions, benchmarks and responsibilities by government and non-governmental organizations, including: MassDEP, Coastal Zone Management (CZM), Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR), Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), Department of Food and Game (DFG), Office of Technical Assistance (OTA), UMass, NRCS and others.
  2. Partnering with NRCS encourages implementation through the Federal Farm Bill. As a result of MassDEP and EPA nonpoint source program coordination, NRCS now prioritizes its Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) program funds based on MassDEP's Watershed Nonpoint Source Action Strategies and State Impaired Waters List (i.e. Category 5 and 4A-TMDLs completed). Specific nonpoint source impacts from agricultural activities will be targeted by NRCS' Massachusetts District Offices, and appropriate structural and management practices will be funded from approximately $5 million in EQIP funds.
  3. Clean-up plan implementation is accomplished at the state and local levels in part through MassDEP's Section 319 program, which places a high priority on (Total Maximum Daily Load) TMDL implementation activities in 303d-listed waters. All TMDL-recommended activities, including nonpoint source Best Management Practices (BMPs) implementation and assessment are eligible for 319 funding. In Federal Fiscal Year 2007, MassDEP funded seven 319-nonpoint source implementation projects, with a total project value of $ 1.1 million.
  4. The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA) 5-Year Action Plans will help direct and implement NPS projects. With funding provided under the Massachusetts Watershed Initiative, EOEEA has developed twenty 5-Year Action Plans in the following watersheds: Blackstone, Boston Harbor, Cape Cod, Chicopee, Connecticut, Deerfield, Farmington, Housatonic, Hudson, Ipswich, Merrimack, Millers, Mt. Hope / Narragansett, North Coastal, Parker, Shaw sheen, South Coastal, SuAsCo, Ten Mile River, and Westfield Watersheds. These EOEEA Action Plans serve as the implementation road map for watershed improvements by government and non-governmental parties. Restoring and improving water quality in Massachusetts's rivers, streams, and lakes is a major component included in these Action Plans. Although the EOEEA Watershed Team Leaders have been discontinued, several of them were reassigned to MassDEP's Division of Watershed Management program and continue to work in the capacity of MassDEP Basin Planners. Many of the Watershed Teams are still very active and continue to implement water quality improvement actions.

2. Section 319 Nonpoint Source Competitive Grant Funds

Since 1998, the Department has consistently prioritized and targeted Section 319 Nonpoint Source Competitive grants projects that will implement structural best management practices to improve water quality. Over 75% of the Section 319 funds during the last five years (approximately $8.8 million) have been directed to projects that address nonpoint source water quality impairments. More specifically, Section 319 grants have been used as a funding source to implement Massachusetts Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) analyses, recommendations made in Diagnostic / Feasibility studies, and priorities of the former Massachusetts Watershed Initiative. The goal of this program is to identify and remediate nonpoint source water quality problems and reduce or eliminate water quality impairments.

In October of 2003, EPA issued guidelines that include a requirement for watershed-based plans as a prerequisite for using 319 supplemental funds for implementation projects, Nonpoint Source Program and Grants Guidelines for States and Territories. The purpose of these plans is to provide guidance and assistance in determining the potential nonpoint sources where water quality impairments have been identified. To comply with EPA's requirement, in the spring of 2005 MassDEP contracted with a consultant for the development of a Watershed-Based Plan (WBP) for all Massachusetts's watersheds. The WBP has been finalized and is consistent with the nine elements of a watershed-based plan as outlined by EPA in the Guidelines including the following:

  1. Identify causes and sources.
  2. Provide an estimate of the load reductions expected for the management measures described.
  3. Describe the management measures needed to achieve necessary load reductions.
  4. Estimate needed technical and financial resources for implementation.
  5. Provide education and outreach to enhance public understanding of a project and build support.
  6. Assist in developing a schedule for implementation measures.
  7. Describe interim and measurable milestones
  8. Provide criteria that can be used to determine if load reductions are being achieved over time and measure progress.
  9. Provide a monitoring component to evaluate effectiveness of measures over time.

3. Clean Water State Revolving Fund

The MassDEP's State Revolving Fund (SRF) is available to help fund projects designed to control stormwater runoff. MassDEP anticipates this vehicle will increasingly be used for such projects under the Stormwater Phase II requirements. In FFY2007, the Massachusetts Nonpoint Source Management Plan was amended to facilitate the use of these funds.

4. Phase II Stormwater Compliance

As of March 2003, stormwater (polluted runoff) discharges in almost seventy-five percent (250) of the communities in Massachusetts became regulated under EPA's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). In accordance with the provisions of the Clean Water Act, as amended (33 U.S.C. s. 1251 et. seq.), operators of small municipal separate storm sewer systems will be required to meet six minimum stormwater control measures: (1) Public education and outreach; (2) Public involvement and participation; (3) Illicit discharge detection and elimination; (4) Construction site stormwater runoff control (5) Post construction stormwater management in new development and redevelopment; (6) Pollution prevention and good housekeeping in municipal operations. Because stormwater is the universal vehicle that transports a major portion of nonpoint source pollution to waters of the Commonwealth, tracking activities and enforcement of this new permit requirement is expected to result in significant improvements in water quality in the state.

5. Massachusetts Estuary Project (MEP)

Coastal embayments in Massachusetts and along the U.S. eastern seaboard are becoming nutrient enriched. Bacteria and associated pathogens are also causing water quality impairment with increasing frequency. The elevated contaminant levels are primarily related to the land use impacts associated with the increasing population within the coastal zone over the past half-century, most particularly onsite wastewater disposal and nonpoint source runoff. The regional effects of both nutrient loading and bacterial contamination span the spectrum from environmental to socio-economic impacts and have direct consequences to the culture, economy, and tax base of Massachusetts's coastal communities.

Nitrogen is the primary nutrient causing the increasing impairment of our coastal embayments. Primary sources of nitrogen include wastewater and nonpoint source runoff that carries fertilizers and other nutrient sources. Nitrogen related water quality decline represents one of the most serious threats to the ecological health of the nearshore coastal waters. Coastal embayments, because of their shallow nature and large shoreline area, are generally the first indicators of nutrient pollution from terrestrial sources.

To address this issue, MassDEP is collaborating with the University of Massachusetts (UMASS), School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST) and other groups to conduct a detailed scientific review of 89 estuaries in Southeastern MA over the next several years. That review will include data collection in each embayment to assess water quality and habitat conditions, development of a linked model approach that combines land use, groundwater and water quality models to estimate nitrogen loads from each potential source, and an evaluation of potential options to address declining and impaired estuarine resources.

Improving Results
Primarily as the result of MassDEP's success in controlling pollution from point sources, nonpoint source pollution is the leading remaining cause of water impairments in Massachusetts. To improve the effectiveness at controlling pollution from nonpoint sources, the following actions will be taken:

  • Focus on Watershed-Based Plans: As noted above, MassDEP is taking a leadership role by funding Watershed-Based Plans for each of the 27 Massachusetts basins. This innovative and comprehensive approach has produced specific nonpoint source plans that follow guidelines set by EPA for all major Massachusetts basins. These plans are now completed and in concert with MassDEP's TMDLs (cleanup plans), will be used as a public roadmap to restore and protect waters from nonpoint source pollution.
  • Revision of the Massachusetts Megamanual: In 2006, the MassDEP republished a nonpoint source pollution (NPS) management guide for municipal officials. This new nonpoint source product, the Clean Water Toolkit , is a major enhancement to the original 1993 Megamanual, and provides a more comprehensive and updated list of BMPs in a user-friendly electronic format that makes the information accessible for municipal officials and other non-technical readers who are seeking specific answers to their nonpoint source pollution problems. The new manual is presented in chapters by topic such as Urban Runoff, Lakes and Ponds, Stream Restoration, and Agriculture, and is supported by individual fact sheets on each Best Management Practice.
  • Evaluating Nutrient Loading from Cranberry Bogs: A number of lakes and ponds in southeastern MA have been impacted, in part, by excessive nutrient loading from cranberry bog operations. Over the last several years MassDEP has worked with the Cranberry Growers Association and the Cranberry Experiment Station to evaluate the nutrient loading dynamics, and applicable BMPs, which will be the basis for TMDL reductions and eventually water quality improvements. In FY08 a pilot TMDL will be developed for a water body whose primary source of nutrients is from Cranberry Bogs. This TMDL will serve to open discussions with the Cranberry Industry and serve as a template for additional TMDLs.
  • Bacteria
    • Source Tracking: Over the last two years the Division of Watershed Management (DWM) has been conducting a pilot program to develop procedures to track and identify sources of bacteria to the Commonwealth's surface waters. The initial pilot was conducted in the Blackstone and SuAsCo watersheds and was successful in identifying some specific sources of contamination. In 2005, the approach was expanded to identify bacterial sources to specific beaches in the Central and Western Regions of MassDEP. In 2006, MassDEP partnered with USGS, EPA, and the Wall Experiment Station in Lawrence to conduct site-specific testing on the Shawsheen River, and to use that data to develop specific laboratory protocols to allow identification of both human- and non-human based sources. These protocols are critical to determine the exact source of future contamination. Also in 2006 and 2007, MassDEP hired regional monitoring coordinators in the Western, Northeast and Southeastern Regional Offices to conduct source-tracking work.
    • Bacteria TMDLs: The goal for these TMDLs is to identify and eliminate the sources of bacteria to the waterbody. As previously noted, MassDEP has focused on developing and implementing field protocols to help isolate and define bacterial sources. MassDEP plans to maintain data collection activities and the development of TMDLs in a number of water bodies across the state that is directly or indirectly impacted by these pollutants. MassDEP has been working with EPA Region 1 and other New England States to explore innovative ways of addressing different kinds of impairments including additional ways to "bundle" TMDLs for bacteria. In 2006, MassDEP, in conjunction with EPA, developed a methodology to generate "bundled" draft bacteria TMDLs for all 27 watersheds in the Commonwealth, as well as an implementation guidance to help local communities address these impairments. In 2007, the Charles River Watershed Bacteria TMDL was approved by EPA and serves as the template for TMDLs in the remaining watersheds.

Detailed Work Plans
The following activities are planned for FFY2008:

  • Maintain a base Nonpoint Source Program to meet EPA mandated requirements for continued Section 319 funding.
  • Continue to work closely with other state agencies such as EOEEA, Coastal Zone Management (CZM) and the Mass Riverways programs to develop, select, and support coastal and river nonpoint source projects and help prioritizing those projects for 319 funding.
  • Input updated Section 319 project information and anticipated load reduction into the EPA GRTS database. Update existing GRTS information for 319 projects from previous years to reflect actual improvements brought about by project implementation.
  • Watershed-Based Plans: Continue to conduct outreach to local environmental groups and state agencies such as Congress of Lakes and Ponds (COLAP), local planning agencies, Mass Watershed Coalition, Coastal Zone Management (CZM), Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) and others that can use the plans to help develop implementation solutions.
  • Nonpoint Source Manual (Clean Water Toolkit): Continue to provide outreach through MassDEP's Wetlands Circuit Riders to local Conservation Commissions and others.
  • Continue support for the Massachusetts Estuary Project (MEP) to investigate alternative strategies for reducing nitrogen to coastal embayments. Support will be provided through the development of TMDLs, implementation of existing pilot studies in three coastal embayments, and continued evaluation of innovative and alternative onsite wastewater systems at the Massachusetts Alternative Septic System Test Center.
  • Develop a pilot TMDL where cranberry bogs have been identified as significant nutrient sources to local water bodies.
  • Enhancing the Bacterial Source Tracking Toolbox for Water Quality Results: Continue to develop necessary field and laboratory protocols to identify, reduce, or eliminate bacteria sources to surface waters. Implement this activity on a regional basis.
  • Continue to update a list-serve mechanism developed to provide better communication to important groups and associations about nonpoint source issues.
  • Identify two small watersheds where 319 projects have been implemented or could be implemented to document the effectiveness of the 319 program by eliminating or reducing water quality impairments.
  • Finalize "bundled" bacteria TMDLs in about 50% of the watersheds and provide a companion implementation guidance document.
  • As time permits, update the Massachusetts Nonpoint Source Management Plan.

1 Massachusetts Nonpoint Source Management Plan-Volume III (2001); Commonwealth of Massachusetts Summary of Water Quality (2000); Massachusetts Year 2004 Draft Integrated List of Waters

back to Surface & Groundwater index

Restore degraded water quality

Summary:

Indicator: The percent of the state's impaired waters where restoration plans have been developed or are underway

Why is this important?
Measurably improved water quality is the target for MassDEP's restoration work. However, because changes in water quality generally take some time and because we do not have good trend data to use, for now we are using an intermediate measure as an indicator: the number of degraded waters for which we have done a clean up plan or a plan is underway. Implementation of those plans, and measurable results in the state's waters, is the long-term goal.

For many of the degraded waters in the Massachusetts, we know what is causing the problem, e.g., low dissolved oxygen or excess nutrients. However, we have significantly less information on the sources that contribute to the problem, e.g., whether the excess nutrients come from sewage treatment plants, septic systems, stormwater, agriculture, etc. Before we can take action to reduce the problems, we need to identify the contributing sources. A study that identifies the sources and prepares a plan for reducing them is a necessary first step for improving water quality in many areas of the state. The level of information needed to formulate a restoration plan can vary greatly depending upon the pollutant of concern and number of sources. In some cases the restoration actions are fairly straightforward and consistent for certain types of waterbodies. In those cases it is more important to develop and implement corrective actions than to spend a lot of time collecting more data. In other cases a significant amount of analysis (monitoring and modeling) are needed prior to plan development to quantify each source identify their relative contribution.

How are we doing?
We have started developing restoration plans in a number of impaired waters throughout the Commonwealth although much more needs to be done. To date we have completed plans for 194 segments representing 224 water quality impairments and have a number of large studies underway including major efforts on Cape Cod through the Massachusetts Estuaries Project (MEP), the Nashua River, the Taunton River and the development of a statewide bacteria TMDL that may address hundreds of segments in all 27 watersheds in MA. A TMDL and (subsequent) implementation plans are also underway to decrease the amount of mercury emissions, resulting in about 100 waterbodies in Massachusetts that have been identified as containing elevated levels of mercury in fish tissue. Similar activities are occurring throughout New England, the State of New York, and a number of Canadian Provinces. MassDEP is attempting to improve efficiency in producing better environmental results by grouping problems with similar causes and trying to deal with multiple waters at the same time. Refer to work plan for more details. Since approximately 70% of the impaired waters in the state are impaired for either bacteria or nutrients, these issues are the primary priority for future plan development.

Workplan:

What's behind the numbers: MassDEP's long-term goal is to restore the Commonwealth's degraded waterbodies. The information discussed in this work plan is for waters known to be impaired in many cases MassDEP does not have sufficient data on much of the state's waters and therefore does not know whether there are additional impaired waters not currently part of the assessments.

The first step toward restoring impaired waters is to know the cause of the impairment: e.g., whether the problem is low dissolved oxygen or high levels of nutrients. MassDEP's knowledge of causes is fairly good. The cause of problems is known in 100% of the 207 impaired marine segments, 100% of the 304 impaired lakes, and 86% of the 274 impaired river segments listed on the 2004 Integrated List.

The data (2004 Integrated List) on causes of impairments in assessed waters overwhelmingly indicates that the major causes of impairment are excess nutrients and pathogens. As can be seen in Figure 1 below the biggest single cause of impairment is pathogens, which has been identified as a problem in roughly 24% of the assessed waters. Nutrient impairment and its secondary effects such as low dissolved oxygen, noxious aquatic plants, and turbidity have been identified as the cause of impairment in approximately 46% of the Commonwealth's assessed waters. Combined, these two causes account for roughly 70% of the impairments in Massachusetts.

Before a plan can be developed and implemented to address the causes of impairments, the sources of the problem must be identified. We may know, for example, that excess nitrogen is the cause of eutrophication in some coastal embayments, but that information by itself does not tell us whether the nitrogen comes from wastewater (either treatment plants or septic systems), stormwater runoff, agricultural inputs, air deposition or a combination of the above. In some cases there is a single source of a particular pollutant causing impairment, and in these cases MassDEP can use its regulatory tools to correct the problem immediately. An example of a situation like this is when a pipe is found discharging sewage directly to a water body without a permit. MassDEP would use its regulatory authority in this case to stop the discharge as quickly as possible.

In the absence of data identifying the sources and their relative contributions to the problem, sometimes reasonable judgments can be formed about the likely contributors based on knowledge about the typical composition of stormwater or about average concentrations of pollution from septic systems. In some cases, this general knowledge is sufficient to develop a remediation plan, in that the probability of the general assessment being accurate is good, the cost to obtain a more definitive answer high, and the work needed to reduce the pollution loading is not prohibitively expensive.

However, in some cases general knowledge is not a sufficient basis for preparing a remediation plan. One common reason is that potential remediation methods are very expensive and would not be a good investment if MassDEP was not fairly confident that they would address the most important sources. In some cases the sources of the problem are unknown and a detailed investigation is necessary.

On occasion some sources are so frequently a major contributor to the problem that rather than conduct hundreds of individual investigations and develop unique remediation plans, MassDEP should just control the problem across the board, knowing that controls will have significant benefits in many water bodies. The stormwater regulations adopted in Massachusetts are an example of this approach.

To most efficiently utilize current resources to maximum benefit for water quality, impaired water bodies are grouped by type. This allows identification of those water bodies that share similar problems and solutions, so that investigatory dollars are invested where they will have the greatest return in improved water quality. A description of each category can be found in the following table. It should be noted that many pollutants could fall into one or more of these categories; and as such, the table does not provide an exact quantification that can be compared to MassDEP's integrated list of impaired waters. The values should be viewed in relative terms to provide the reader with the potential magnitude of each problem or issue.

Complex Water Quality Issues Requiring Detailed Investigations

IssueSee note# of River Impairments# of Lakes# of EstuariesTotal
Nutrients258-73331 
Air deposition of Mercury-105-105 
Issues that can be addressed more efficiently as groups or categories   
CSOs; long-term CSO plan being implemented332-2254
Stormwater (pathogens only; nutrients placed in first category)417310195378
Nonpoint sources5-380-380
Legacy Pollutants (pesticides, heavy metals, priority & non-priority organics)61275222201
Unknown & other7221736331
Total 8116213481780

Notes to accompanying chart:

1. Complex water quality issues; requires full investigation/TMDL

In this category are water bodies where the sources are not known or where there are multiple contributing factors and individualized study is necessary to determine what actions are needed to improve water quality. To make a plan to improve the quality of these impaired waters, the source of each pollutant must be known and the quantity and quality of the pollutant in question that comes from each source. In some cases, such as for nutrients, we also need to know the environmental response to each pollutant. Unfortunately, MassDEP has much less information on the sources, particularly non-point sources, than necessary to make accurate and scientifically based judgments on how to solve the problems. For most pollutants the quantity, or "load", of each pollutant causing water quality problem must be established so that the relative contribution of sources can be determined. MassDEP must also determine what the maximum amount of pollutant load can be that does not cause water quality violations. Collecting sufficient amounts of scientific data and in many cases developing mathematical models that simulate actual conditions accomplishes this. Once this is accomplished those same models are used to evaluate water quality responses under the most severe conditions to establish a safe load. This procedure is commonly known in the regulatory world as a Total Maximum Daily Loads or TMDL evaluation. Some examples of recent undertakings related to this category include, but are not limited to, the recent development of a nutrient TMDLs for the Assabet River, Lower Charles River Basin, and Nashua River, development of new nutrient TMDLs for the Upper Charles River and the Taunton River, and the development of nitrogen TMDLs under the Massachusetts Estuary Project that targets TMDL development in 89 estuaries in southeast Massachusetts.  

2. Air deposition of mercury

Mercury contamination of fish is a widespread problem in the lakes and ponds of Massachusetts; high levels of mercury in fish tissue have been found in most of the lakes and ponds where fish have been sampled. These results present a health concern for pregnant woman and children who may consume fish with elevated mercury levels. Although there are a few local sources of mercury, the dominant source is air deposition of mercury from power plants and other sources originating both in and out-of state. Mercury is persistent in the environment and is bioaccumulative, which highlights the significance of reducing mercury loading to protect public health.

Massachusetts has taken action to drastically reduce local sources of mercury together with other Northeast states and Eastern Canadian Provinces. A workgroup developed the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers Mercury Action Plan pdf format of New England/Eastern Canada Mercury Action Plan
, which was unanimously adopted by the region's Governors and Canadian Premiers in June 1998 at the 23rd annual meeting of the Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers. The Plan includes 45 specific elements in six action areas and explicitly calls for comprehensive actions to the problem that cross traditional media, programmatic, and political boundaries. It establishes a regional goal of virtually eliminating anthropogenic mercury releases. A fifty percent reduction target was achieved by 2003, and subsequently, a 75% reduction goal was established for 2010 and adopted by the Governors and Premiers by resolution. The plan establishes a regional task force for implementation; specifies strict emission limits for major sources that are considerably more stringent than federal requirements; supports pollution prevention efforts to reduce mercury use in products and increased collection and recycling of mercury-added products where environmentally preferable alternatives do not exist; directs state and provincial agencies to implement outreach and education programs about mercury and coordinate environmental monitoring efforts to track results; and calls for the retirement of the federal strategic mercury stockpile.

Massachusetts and other New England States and the Eastern Canadian Provinces are doing their part to address local sources of mercury. As these actions are implemented, it becomes increasingly apparent that further progress requires reductions of mercury from out-of-region atmospheric sources. In the MassDEP 2004 and 2006 integrated list process, MassDEP proposed to move about 90 waters impaired solely by atmospheric mercury to category 4b of the integrated list. MassDEP believed this request was justified because of the aggressive stance in addressing in-state and in-region sources. Limited resources could then be used to implement solutions rather than developing a TMDL. Secondly, MassDEP believed there was little point in spending time developing clean up plans for water bodies impaired solely by air deposition of mercury originating outside of Massachusetts due to the lack of authority in implementing the needed reductions in air emissions of mercury from out of state. Recently, EPA has denied the request and as a result during FY07 MassDEP has worked cooperatively with the other New England States and the State of New York to develop a Regional Mercury TMDL for submittal to EPA. As of July 2007 a Draft TMDL has been developed and received public comment throughout the northeast. The Northeast States are now developing a response to comment document and revising the TMDL with the goal of submitting it to EPA in early in FY08.

3. Combined sewer overflows; long term CSO plan being implemented

Major water quality problems are often found in urban areas that have collection systems that transmit a combination of sewage and storm water. When heavy rainfall occurs the transmission system becomes overloaded and results in overflows to nearby water bodies. These overflows are called combined sewer overflows or CSOs. In Massachusetts, there are approximately 54 water body segments in major metropolitan areas that are affected by CSOs. All of the communities where CSOs originate are under administrative orders to develop long-term control plans to dramatically reduce or eliminate these sources of pollution.

4. Stormwater

Stormwater runoff can result in excessive amounts of bacteria, nutrients, and other pollutants entering water bodies, impeding recreational activities such as swimming. Bacterial contamination is a high priority because of potential public health, recreational (swimming), and resource impacts (shellfishing). Because stormwater runoff is such a large pollution problem in many watersheds, and its contribution to pollution is similar across watersheds, the most cost-effective method to achieve water quality improvements across the state is to require comprehensive stormwater controls. The federal stormwater management program is designed using this approach. Massachusetts is now in Phase II of that program, which requires 237 communities in Massachusetts to develop and implement stormwater controls. In situations where MassDEP expects that implementation of stormwater controls at the local level will improve water quality, an individually designed investigation to develop a clean up plan is not likely to add appreciably to the work already being done to improve water quality. These water bodies can be monitored to evaluate the progress being made through stormwater Phase II. In other cases, clean up plans could provide a framework for local and community action to improve water quality, but these clean up plans are likely to result in similar recommendations for action; many of the impaired lakes and ponds are in this category. In these instances, progress can be made by "bundling" similar water bodies and preparing common clean up plans for groups of similarly situated waters. Some waters impaired by stormwater may require more individualized attention. Some may require collection of water quality samples during both wet and dry weather conditions and conducting sanitary surveys in an effort to identify and eliminate sources of bacteria to the receiving water. In others there may be a need to require identification of illegal connections to the stormwater system, installation of physical structures such as drainage swales to capture and filter stormwater or implementation of best management practices such as more frequent street sweeping to reduce the amount of pollutants that would be washed off impervious surfaces during a storm event. Stormwater from municipal systems can be controlled by local government through the EPA Phase II stormwater program. However, stormwater can also originate from commercial, industrial and institutional areas not covered under the EPA Phase II program.

5. Nonpoint Sources

Nonpoint sources of pollution include a wide variety of source types, including septic systems, rainwater, snowmelt, or irrigation flowing over land, picking up pollutants and depositing them into nearby waterbodies or groundwater. Nonpoint source pollution differs greatly from point source pollution since it doesn't originate from a discrete source or single outlet such as a discharge pipe from an industry or wastewater treatment plant. For this reason, locating contributing sources and devising a means of controlling them can be challenging. Examples of nonpoint sources include agricultural runoff, stormwater runoff, polluted groundwater, erosion/sedimentation, boat waste, and atmospheric deposition.

Nonpoint sources are the largest source of contaminants for many water bodies, including estuaries, lakes and ponds. MassDEP has identified approximately 380 lakes and ponds that are directly impacted by nutrients originating from fertilizer runoff and failed septic systems within the watershed. This pollution can cause widespread growth of aquatic vegetation impairing recreational uses such as swimming and boating. Excessive nutrients can cause the water to turn green and slimy from algae production resulting in low and highly variable oxygen levels making it difficult for fish to survive. The controls needed to reduce pollution for many lakes and ponds are the same or very similar. Because a clean up plan can provide an impetus for action for local communities to reduce pollution, such plans can result in improved water quality. However, because the circumstances are so similar, it is not cost effective to prepare individualized plans one at a time. For water bodies in this category MassDEP plans to group similarly situated waters and prepare plans that are more generally applicable, to achieve the greatest possible pollution reduction as quickly as possible.

6. Legacy pollutants

Legacy pollutants include priority organics, pesticides, and other substances already banned from production and use or activities that have long-been abandoned. It includes waters containing sediments contaminated from past activity where no new inputs of the contamination are occurring. It also includes seepage from past disposal sites that are being address through other MassDEP programs, such as the 21E program. While water bodies affected by legacy pollutants are an issue, most do not present immediate known health risks or are already being addressed through the hazardous waste clean up program. These problems need to be addressed, but the focus of limited resources should be first on the water bodies that are still receiving contaminated flow, because prevention is generally more effective and less costly than fixing the problems after they occur.

7. Unknown and other impairments

This category is a combination of several small categories and includes segments where the identified biological impairment or toxicity is of an unknown source, or where problems have been found that is not widespread throughout the state, e.g., siltation, thermal impacts, ammonia, and chlorine. Most of these problems are either being addressed through permitting (e.g., some of the larger thermal impacts) or are isolated and minor in nature and have been given a low priority for TMDL development at the present time. These issues will need to be re-evaluated individually in the future to determine the specific cause and source of impairment.

Maintaining Strong Performance
Over the next several years MassDEP plans to continue to balance work between the high priority complex water bodies that require individual work plans, and water bodies that can benefit from more generic work plans or other means of addressing pollution problems. MassDEP will continue working on a number of complex nutrient, mercury, and pathogen problems, which require significant research to identify the best and most cost effective solutions.

A number of TMDL studies have been completed and more are underway. Figure 2 provides the number of acres, miles, or square miles, and the percentages of impaired waters with completed studies and those with studies underway.

These percentages reflect some of the studies currently needed to address the estimated 785 water quality impaired segments in the Commonwealth that require individual clean up plans. In the case of marine waters additional "preventative" TMDLs are also under development to ensure estuaries are not degraded in the future. It is for this reason the total exceeds 100% of the waters on our list of impaired waters. In addition to those completed, TMDL studies and/or data collection activities are underway for one or more pollutants in the following water bodies:

All 27 WatershedsBacteria
Upper Charles RiverNutrients 
Assabet RiverSediment/Dam removal to decrease nutrients 
Taunton RiverNutrients 
Shawsheen River HeadwatersStormwater pollutants
Cape Cod/Buzzards Bay/IslandsNutrients (and some for bacteria)
Embayments 
Connecticut RiverNutrients (N)
Nashua RiverNutrients

MassDEP staff, EPA, consultants, and other non-governmental organizations in cooperation with MassDEP are developing these studies.

As previously noted, the two biggest impairments are related to pathogens and nutrients; combined, they represent approximately 70% of the causes of impairment in the assessed waters of the Commonwealth. Nutrient evaluation can often be very site-specific and require detailed data collection and modeling. To develop effective clean up plans, MassDEP needs to assess the relationship of nutrients to dissolved oxygen concentrations and biomass production in order to determine what acceptable levels may be for the water body of concern. Such an approach is resource intensive particularly for river and estuarine systems.

For bacteria the goal is to identify and eliminate the sources of bacteria to the waterbody. MassDEP has focused on developing and implementing field protocols to help isolate and define bacterial sources. A pilot study was conducted in FY2004 to develop field-sampling protocols necessary for tracking sources of bacteria on the Sudbury River in the Concord River watershed and Peters River in the Blackstone watershed. In FY05 MassDEP expanded this pilot to try to track bacteria sources at several beach areas in the Blackstone, Westfield, and Connecticut River Watersheds. The results of these studies confirmed that identifying specific bacterial sources is resource and time intensive but necessary to solve the problem. The results were also used to help local authorities find and repair dry weather discharges to swimming areas. Through these efforts it has become evident that an important component of bacteria source tracking is the ability to differentiate between human and non-human bacteria sources. MassDEP has taken two important steps to respond to these issues. First, MassDEP received a federal grant and is presently conducting studies with the MassDEP Wall Experiment Station and USGS in the Shawsheen River during FFY06-09, which is aimed at validating human marker DNA analyses and other source differentiation techniques that will improve bacteria source tracking techniques. Second, MassDEP pursued and received funding to hire regional monitoring coordinators in the West, Southeast, and Northeast Regions to conduct bacterial source monitoring as well as other activities. Staff have developed tracking plans for several watersheds that are impaired due to bacterial contamination. Additionally MassDEP is participating with EPA on its beach initiative in 2008 using the previously identified protocols.

During FFY06 MassDEP worked closely with EPA Region 1 to develop "bundled" bacteria clean up plans in all 27 watersheds in Massachusetts. Although the goal was to complete half those TMDLs in FFY06 and FY07, these were delayed because of an unrelated project court decision in Washington, DC that has necessitated a revision to the initial approach. During FY07 MassDEP received approval of the first watershed wide bacteria TMDL for 20 segments on the Charles River. The plan for FFY08 is to revise and complete these clean up plans (based on currently available data) for approximately half the watersheds and provide general implementation guidance based on different types of land use activities. The second half of the watersheds will be finished in FY09. This approach allows MassDEP to spend its limited resources finding and eliminating bacterial sources. At completion, these plans will address over 350 water bodies currently impaired due to bacteria contamination.

MassDEP also plans to maintain data collection activities and the development of TMDLs in a number of water bodies across the state that are either directly or indirectly impacted by these pollutants. MassDEP continues to work with EPA Region 1 and the other New England States to explore innovative ways of addressing different kinds of impairments such as evaluating additional ways to "bundle" TMDLs for lakes, stormwater, and bacteria.

For FY07, MassDEP has put significant effort into developing nutrient TMDLs throughout the state. For instance, MassDEP worked closely with EPA Region 1 to develop a nutrient TMDL for the Lower Charles Basin. Additionally, MassDEP is participating in a regional workgroup to assess nutrient related issues in Long Island Sound. MassDEP has also partnered with the UMASS-Dartmouth School of Marine Science and Technology (SMAST) to assess nutrient impaired waters in Southeastern Massachusetts. That work has resulted in the development of over 30 nitrogen TMDLs for Cape Cod and Buzzards Bay.

MassDEP will continue to maintain these activities and expand activities to other waterbodies where resources allow. Emphasis will continue to be placed on impaired waters where studies will be most useful in identifying sources and developing a workable and cost effective plan to return them to state water quality standards.

Clean up plans are not the only way MassDEP works toward improving water quality. MassDEP also has several other programs that are not only aimed at preventing water quality degradation, but also help restore degraded water quality. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. MA Clean Water State Revolving Fund
  2. Nonpoint Source Grant program
  3. Surface and Groundwater Permitting Programs
  4. Wetlands Standards and Permitting Program
  5. Compliance Monitoring
  6. Stormwater Control (Phase 1 and 2)

More information on each of these and other regulatory programs can be found in the following workplans: Preventing Water Quality Degradation; Surface Water Discharge Permitting & Surface Water Compliance; Groundwater Discharge Permitting & Groundwater Discharge Compliance; and Identify Cause of Wetlands Loss.

Improving results
MassDEP's ultimate goal is to see results in improved water quality. However, because the data on water quality is not as comprehensive as is necessary, and because it can take years to observe improvements in water quality, MassDEP adopted the preparation of a clean up plan as an intermediate measure. Clean up plans identify the sources of the problems, where possible, and how much reduction is necessary to achieve water quality, providing the foundation for improving already degraded waters. MassDEP does not have the capacity to prepare as many of these plans as are needed, but the work is being prioritized so that the most important, and most fixable problems are addressed first.

While a clean up plan is often a necessary precursor to improving water quality, that plan can only produce results if it is implemented. MassDEP's experience is that a clean up plan can significantly contribute to improving water quality, by permitting decisions, focusing enforcement efforts, directing grant and loan dollars, and encouraging action at the local level. In several cases, clean-up studies have been the basis or at least a significant contributing reason for initiating water quality improvement efforts. For instance, in the case of Little Harbor in Cohasset, the TMDL helped solidify support for the sewering of the area to help address bacterial contamination from subsurface sewage systems that were functioning poorly. On the Shawsheen River, a clean up plan has provided an impetus for funding of follow-up work to identify and correct bacterial contamination in many areas. A separate effort on stormwater pollutants in the headwaters of the Shawsheen River is leading to efforts by the US Air Force and MassPort to improve water quality through better storm water management. Additionally, a major effort completed on the Assabet River is the basis for identifying the need for major reductions in loadings of the nutrient phosphorus and at the same time supporting a strong regulatory framework for insuring the necessary reductions occur. TMDL studies have provided a focal point for many of the communities on Cape Cod who want to restore and protect their valuable coastal resources. Also several lake associations have used TMDLs to apply for grants to implement nonpoint source control measures. The generation of these studies in many cases has been the seed around which water quality efforts have crystallized and in other cases have encouraged efforts.

In addition to focusing on the development of clean-up plans MassDEP/Division of Watershed Management (DWM) will be taking the following actions:

* Non-point source pollution has been identified as one of the primary reasons that water quality impairments still exist. It is also the most difficult to identify and control. To be successful in addressing these issues MassDEP staff must obtain and maintain specific knowledge of these sources on a watershed-by-watershed basis and work closely with public groups to develop and implement grant proposals to abate the source of pollution. MassDEP/DWM has taken the role of identifying and prioritizing important nonpoint source projects and working with grants staff to target funding to address the most important water quality impairments. MassDEP can also help municipalities obtain grants, as well as serve as the project officers for a limited number of grants.

* In FY07 MassDEP finished development of watershed-based plans to provide guidance and assistance in determining the potential non-point sources where water quality impairments have been identified. The purpose of this project was to develop a Watershed-Based Plan for each of the 27 major Massachusetts basins. Watershed-Based Plans developed under this project contain the following elements:

  1. Identification of causes and sources or groups of similar sources that will need to be controlled
  2. Estimate of load reductions expected for the management measures described
  3. Description of management measures that will need to be implemented to achieve the load reductions and identification of critical areas in which those measures will be needed.
  4. Estimate of the amounts of technical and financial assistance needed, associated costs, and/or the sources and authorities that will be relied upon, to implement the plan.
  5. Education/outreach used to enhance public understanding of the project and encourage their early and continued participation in selecting, designing, and implementing the NPS management measures that will be implemented.
  6. Schedule for implementing the NPS management measures ID in the plan that is reasonably expeditious.
  7. Description of interim, measurable milestones for determining whether NPS management measures or other control actions are being implemented.
  8. Criteria that can be used to determine whether loading reductions are being achieved over time and substantial progress is being made towards attaining WQ standards. And, if not, criteria for determining whether the plan or TMDL needs to be revised.
  9. Monitoring component to evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation efforts over time, measured against the criteria in the preceding bullet.

MassDEP anticipates using this document to guide implementation efforts in FFY08.

To support these efforts MassDEP redeveloped the Nonpoint Source Megamanual as the Clean Water Toolkit. The Clean Water Toolkit provides a complete resource for understanding and mitigating the effects of nonpoint source pollution. The original version was released in 1994. The new Clean Water Toolkit is available on the MassDEP website and as a CD. The electronic format affords access to a wealth of additional information through the use of hot links to outside resources. The Toolbox also provides a Best Management Practice Selector Tool, which will allow the user to select appropriate fact sheets and best management practices according to specific criteria or resource areas of concern.

Detailed work plans
1. TMDL Activities: During FFY08 -09 MassDEP/DWM plans to conduct the following TMDL related work. Because of the complexity of TMDL development detailed schedules are provided for one year only, however additional work is also described. Most of the work is targeted at nutrients and bacteria that are the primary causes of impairments in MA (see Know the Condition of Surface and Groundwaters). It should be noted that the ability to finalize TMDL documents is highly dependent upon both internal and external activities particularly for projects associated with the MA Estuaries Project. Estimated timelines are provided for deliverables.

ProjectDraft Tech ReportFinal Tech ReportDraft TMDLFinal TMDL
1. Statewide Bacteria TMDLs (B)N/AN/A27 watersheds Completed50% Q4 - 20081
50% Q4- 20091
2. Nashua River TMDL (N)N/AN/ACompletedQ2- 20081
3. Oyster Pond (N)CompletedCompletedCompletedQ1- 20081 
4. Little Pond (N)CompletedCompletedCompletedQ2- 20081
5. Centerville Harbor (N)CompletedCompleted CompletedQ2- 20081
6. Three Bays/Princes Cove (N)CompletedCompletedCompletedQ1- 20081
7. Wareham (N)CompletedQ1- 20081Q1- 20081Q4- 20081
8. West Falmouth Harbor (N)CompletedCompletedCompletedQ1- 20081
9. Acushnet River/New Bedford (N)CompletedQ1- 20081Q1- 20081Q4- 20081
10. Sessachacha Pond, Nantucket (N)CompletedQ1- 20081TBD2TBD2 
11. Pleasant Bay (N)CompletedCompletedCompletedCompleted
12. Rushy Marsh (N)CompletedCompletedCompletedTBD2
13.Phinney's Harbor/ Back River/Eel Pond (N)CompletedCompletedCompletedQ1- 20081
14. Nantucket Harbor (N)CompletedQ4- 20071CompletedQ2- 20081
15. Edgartown Great Pond (N)CompletedQ1- 20081Q1- 20081Q3- 20081
16. Little Namasket River (N)CompletedQ1- 20081Q1- 20081Q3 - 20081
17. Namasket River (N)CompletedQ1- 20081Q1- 20081Q3 - 20081 
18. Rock Harbor (N)CompletedQ1- 20081Q1- 20081Q3 - 20081
19. Lewis Bay (N)CompletedQ1- 20081Q2- 20081Q4 - 20081
20. Nauset Marsh (N)Q2- 20081Q3- 20081Q3- 20081Q1- 20091
21. Lake Tashmoo (N)Q2- 20081Q3- 20081Q3- 20081Q1- 20091
22.Lagoon Pond (N)Q2- 20081Q3- 20081Q3- 20081Q1- 20091
23. Pocasset Harbor (N)Q2- 20081Q3- 20081Q3- 20081Q1- 20091
24. Madaket Harbor (N)Q3- 20081Q4- 20081Q4- 20081Q2- 20091
25. Long Pond, Nantucket (N)Q3-20081Q4-20081Q4-20081 Q2-20091
26. Parkers River (N)Q3-20081Q4-20081 Q4-20081Q2-20091 
27. Saquatucket Harbor (N)Q2-20081Q3-20081 Q3-20081 Q1-20091 
28. Allen Harbor (N)Q2-20081Q3-20081 Q3-20081 Q1-20091 
29. Herring River (N)Q2-20081Q3-20081 Q3-20081 Q1-20091 
30. Wychmere Harbor (N)Q2-20081 Q3-20081 Q3-20081 Q1-20091
31. Chilmark Pond (N)Q2-20081 Q3-20081 Q3-20081 Q1-20091 
32.Farm Pond (N)Q3-20081 Q4-20081Q4-20081Q2-20091
33. Slocums River (N)Completed Q3-20081 Q3-20081 Q1-20091 
34. Little River, Dartmouth (N)Completed Q3-20081 Q3-20081 Q2-20091
35. Apponagansett Bay (N)Q2-20081 Q3-20081 Q3-20081 Q1-20091 
36. Lower Charles (N)NANA Completed Q4-20071 
37. Regional Mercury TMDLNA NA Completed Q1-20081 

1 Federal Fiscal Year Quarters (Q1: October-December; Q2: January - March; Q3: April - June; Q4: July-September)

2 Impairment may be naturally occurring and the need for a TMDL needs to be determined.

In addition DWM will maintain involvement in the following projects.

  1. 1. Upper Charles River nutrient TMDL - CRWA Lead
  2. Connecticut River Nitrogen- NEIWPCC & EPA lead
  3. Assabet River - work with ACOE and stakeholders to evaluate dam & sediment remediation options.
  4. Work with & support UMASS/Upper Blackstone WPAD on Blackstone River Model
  5. Continue data collection on Blackstone River to determine nitrogen attenuation, loading, and impoundment sediment resuspension.
  6. Finalize evaluation of POTW capability to remove nitrogen at facilities located in the Blackstone, Ten Mile, Connecticut, Watersheds.

2. Nutrient Criteria Development: In addition to the above, MassDEP will continue development of nutrient criteria for lakes and rivers. This will involve finalizing contracts with USGS, collecting data where needed, evaluating data and synthesizing the information to establish the criteria. A public hearing will be necessary to incorporate these criteria into the Massachusetts Water Quality Standards. It is anticipated that this will take place during the 2008 work year.

3. Participation in the Massachusetts Estuaries Program will be continued as part of the coastal waters nutrient- and bacteria-related efforts to develop nitrogen criteria and TMDLs (for nutrients and bacteria) in coastal waters. A detailed schedule is provided in the previous table for TMDL projects planned for FFY08-09. Since many of these projects carry over from year to year, detailed schedules for beyond FFY08 cannot be developed at this time. It is estimated that TMDLs for an additional 14 embayments will be developed each year.

4. Taunton River: Over the next several years MassDEP will begin data collection efforts to develop a nutrient TMDL for the Taunton River. MassDEP received funding to begin data collection activities and has entered into a contract with USGS to begin data collection next year. Presently, data collection is expected to occur during FY08 & FY09 to be followed by water quality modeling and TMDL development in FFY2010 & FFY2011.

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Set protective flow targets

Summary:

Indicator: Number of major watersheds with protective stream flow targets

Why is this important?
Before MassDEP can take action to ensure a healthy ecosystem, we need to know what flow levels and patterns are necessary to protect the river ecosystems and establish protective flow targets to improve river ecosystem health. Protective flow targets can help protect already stressed water resources and can prevent deterioration of conditions in basins that are not yet stressed. This indicator measures the number of watersheds in which the main river has an individually established stream flow target based on a desirable hydrograph that protects habitat.

How are we doing?
Currently, only one watershed has a protective flow target based on the natural hydrograph and habitat requirements. MassDEP is working collaboratively with other agencies to identify a model hydrograph that will depict a river's hydrograph that is sufficient to protect aquatic health. Once the model is developed we can compare the desired condition to the current observed hydrograph and identify where flow problems exist and where corrective actions might be possible.

In order to protect aquatic habitats, MassDEP has provided water suppliers the option of implementing mandatory restrictions on non-essential outside water use triggered by either an interim streamflow threshold, or based on the calendar year (May 1 - September 30th). Those water suppliers who choose to implement non-essential outside water restrictions triggered by streamflow will be required to do so when stream flow falls below the US Fish and Wildlife's New England Base Flow (ABF) default value of 0.5 cubic feet per second square mile (CFSM) for three consecutive days unless a site-specific study has established a more detailed flow statistic. Water suppliers can check real time data on stream flows at the nearest gauge at the USGS website at http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/.

There are two specific on-going efforts to address flow targets:

  1. MassDEP is coordinating with the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) in a statewide in-stream task force to address flow target goals for habitat protection. The Water Resources Commission/DCR report currently in progress is expected to provide a range of flow statistics derived from USGS index gages. Along with hydrologic data, it is anticipated that the report will also introduce the initial set of biological markers to the natural hydrograph for consideration.
  2. MassDEP is also collaborating with USGS in the development of the Sustainable Yield Estimator Project (SYE). The SYE is designed to provide MassDEP with a GIS-based screening tool to generate natural flow and present day flow at un-gauged sites on any perennial stream. In addition to estimating cumulative flow impacts, the SYE will be an interactive tool enabling MassDEP to evaluate varying flow targets for consideration as competing water interests are balanced.

Workplan:

What's behind the numbers: MassDEP is currently working to establish protective stream flow targets based on a stream's natural hydrograph and habitat requirements. With the exception of the Ipswich River Basin, to date no watershed has protective flow targets based on the natural hydrograph and habitat requirements. MassDEP is collaborating with other agencies to further define stream flow requirements to protect habitat and ecological health. Working toward developing these protective flow targets for all watersheds, MassDEP will be using an interim flow trigger to protect high and medium stress basins.

A stream's natural flow regime varies in magnitude, frequency, duration, timing and rate of change. Sufficient flows, and flows that are sufficiently varied, are essential for a healthy ecosystem. The natural flow regime determines the integrity of a river ecosystem and maintains biological diversity. Modifications to stream flow can disturb the natural variation of stream flow and disrupt the life cycle of aquatic species. In addition, flow has a profound impact on water quality and sufficient flow is a necessary parameter of clean water and a healthy ecosystem.

In order to determine stream flow requirements to provide habitat adequate to sustain aquatic life during low-flow periods and seasonally variable flows necessary to sustain the ecological integrity of rivers, the U.S. Geological Survey conducted the following studies:

  • Evaluation of stream flow requirements for habitat protection by comparison to stream flow characteristics at index stream flow - gaging stations in southern New England, Water Resources Investigations Report 03-4332, USDOI, USGS, by David S. Armstrong, Gene W. Parker, and Todd A. Richards, 2004. http://water.usgs.gov/pubs/wri/wri034332/ http://pubs.er.usgs.gov/pubs/wri/wri034332 This study suggests that comparing fish communities and flow statistics at different rivers can potentially indicate the degree to which flow regimes can be altered and still sustain a healthy ecosystem.
  • Assessment of habitat, fish communities, and stream flow requirements for habitat protection, Ipswich River, Massachusetts, 1998-1999. Water Resources Investigations Report 01-4161, USDOI, USGS, by David S. Armstrong, Gene W. Parker, and Todd A. Richards, 2001. http://pubs.er.usgs.gov/pubs/wri/wri014161 This study was designed to provide guidance to water resources managers on how to determine streamflows necessary to protect stream habitat. It evaluated various methods for determining stream flow and establishing minimum stream flow for habitat protection.

Utilizing this information, MassDEP is evaluating streamflow requirements. Below is a sample hydrograph depicting existing flow measured by an in-stream gauge, the natural flow (that flow that would exist if there were no impacts to flow due to withdrawals, impoundments or discharges), and a protective flow target based on habitat requirements.

The natural hydrograph illustrates desirable conditions. By comparing this with the existing monthly or daily hydrographs changes can be seen in the frequency or duration of flow. Evaluating the natural and the existing hydrograph will helps set a protective flow target. MassDEP can then determine how flow targets should be used in the regulatory process. The Water Management Act was established as a mechanism to manage ground and surface water as a single hydrologic system and ensure a balance among competing water withdrawals. Part of the problem in achieving appropriate balance in the past is that MassDEP did not know what level of streamflow was necessary to support aquatic life, so we had difficulty including flow protection into the balance. With the establishment of flow targets MassDEP can appropriately balance water withdrawals to protect stream health while allowing other off-stream uses such as water supply, and economic development.

Until flow targets are established, MassDEP is using either an interim streamflow threshold that triggers mandatory restrictions on non-essential outside water use, or requiring the implementation of restrictions seasonally from May 1 - September 30. For those choosing to implement restrictions based on streamflow, restrictions will be required when stream flow falls below the US Fish and Wildlife's New England Base Flow (ABF) default value of 0.5 cubic feet per second square mile (CFSM) for three consecutive days unless a site-specific study has established a more detailed flow statistic. This interim threshold is necessary to protect aquatic habitat while more specific protective flow targets are being developed.

Maintaining Strong Performance
MassDEP is participating with the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) in a statewide instream flow task force to evaluate streamflow data from USGS and other relevant studies to more accurately identify possible statewide protective flow targets for consideration. The In-Stream Flow Task Force will address the technical issues associated for maintaining a healthy ecosystem. MassDEP, working with the Water Resources Management Advisory Committee and others, will use this information as well as other data to work toward achieving the intent of the Water Management Act, which includes protecting the natural environment of the water in the Commonwealth, assuring comprehensive and systematic planning and management of water withdrawals and use in the Commonwealth, recognizing that water is both finite and renewable, and allowing continued and sustainable economic growth throughout the Commonwealth.

Improving results
When protective stream flow targets are developed, those targets can be compared with actual flows to identify where improvements are needed. Meaningful comparison of the protective flow targets with existing conditions will require more stream flow data.

In addition, MassDEP is collaborating with a USGS investigative study to develop the Sustainable Yield Estimator (SYE) Project to estimate cumulative impacts and sustainable yield. The SYE is designed to provide MassDEP with a desktop screening tool to estimate natural and present day flow at any point on a perennial stream in Massachusetts. Developed as an interactive tool, the SYE will also allow MassDEP to evaluate varying scenarios for protective flow targets.

Detailed Work Plan 

  • Participate on statewide stream flow taskforce to evaluate USGS and other relevant studies and to define statewide protective flow targets.
  • Amend existing database to track pumping and flow records submitted by water suppliers
  • Develop protocol for tracking stream flow and how and when PWS should notify the Department
  • Develop a tracking system that identifies when flow triggers are met
  • GIS map identifying all withdrawals above each gauge
  • Collaborate with USGS in the Sustainable Yield Estimator Project and other relevant projects related to water management.

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Know stream flow condition

Summary:

Indicator: The percent of rivers for which flow conditions are known

Why is this important?
Monitoring the flows in Massachusetts waters enables MassDEP to know where flow problems exist and where MassDEP needs to focus attention. Once protective flow targets or desired flow conditions are established, these can be compared to actual flow data, thereby identifying rivers where flow needs to be preserved and those where flow needs to be improved.

How are we doing?
MassDEP has initial stress condition information on 68% of Massachusetts' drainage basin areas. This data represents the drainage areas within Massachusetts where we have a relative measure of stress on rivers and streams as defined by the Water Resources Commission's Stressed Basin Report (WRC). Data from 72 gauges, mostly along main stems, was used by the WRC in the Stressed Basin Classification Report to designate hydrologic stress for river basins by comparing low flow statistics at gauged streams. The hydrologically stressed basins represent the rivers with the relatively lowest flows (per square mile of drainage area) in Massachusetts. The WRC Report indicates that approximately 5% or 407 square miles of drainage area is classified as "high stress" for stream flow conditions; 35% or 2898 square miles are under "medium stress"; 27% or 2207 square miles are under "low stress"; and 32% or 2580 square miles of drainage area are un-assessed for flow conditions.

Since MassDEP has only detailed flow data from gauges on approximately 5% of the Massachusetts' named rivers, the stressed basin classification is being used as an indicator of stress conditions in streams located within a particular stress classified subbasin. There are many limitations to using this information to evaluate flow stress conditions. The first limitation is that the information only measures a watershed relatively close to its largest point. This means it includes inputs from throughout the watershed, but, it also cannot identify where smaller contributing streams are experiencing flow impacts. A second limitation is that this information, identifies at a river's flow condition relative to other rivers in the state but, not how far or close the river is to a healthy flow level.

In order to get a more accurate picture of stream flow conditions, MassDEP needs to expand its network of stream gauges. The actual flow data can than be compared to a model hydrograph of optimal conditions to measure impacts and to identify where and at what times throughout the year mitigation is needed. These hydrographs, along with habitat assessments, can potentially indicate the degree to which flow regimes can be altered and still sustain a healthy ecosystem.

In the last two years, state environmental agencies have provided funding to install 23 additional United States Geological Survey (USGS) stream gauges. With the additional gauges, USGS now collects real-time flow data at 131 stream gauges in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. This flow data can be accessed http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ma/nwis/current/?type=flow.

Workplan:

What's behind the numbers: Information on stream flow comes from 131 gauges maintained by the USGS link to map and list of gauges. There are a limited number of gauges and most of those are located downstream on a main stem river. Since MassDEP has limited information on watersheds, current data is not necessarily a good indicator of the condition of the entire basin. For example, headwater streams may be stressed even though the downstream data indicates no problems. There is not a complete understanding of flow conditions at individual streams given the limits on current flow information. While additional information is being developed, MassDEP is uses the Water Resources Commission's Stress Basin Report as an indicator of stress conditions within a drainage area. The WRC Stress Basin Report defined hydrologic stress as the relative strength of rivers in Massachusetts's river basins using a comparison of low flow statistics for selected 72 stream gauges in Massachusetts. This study was designed to highlight areas needing further assessment or to define when mitigation is warranted for potential projects.

The WRC study indicates that approximately 5% or 393 square miles of drainage area is classified as "high stress" for stream flow conditions; 35% or 898 square miles are under "medium stress"; 27% or 2207 square miles are under "low stress"; and 32% or 2594 square miles of drainage area are un-assessed for flow conditions.
While MassDEP knows the relative degree of flow stress for rivers within 68% of the state's drainage areas, we are not able to determine flow stress in 32% of the drainage areas using the WRC stress basin report. These basins cannot be assessed using the current gauge data of the WRC stressed basin report due to the limited number of gauges available for this study. No conclusions can be made about the degree of stress in these unassessed basins without further investigation. One recent investigation and report submittal of an unassessed area was performed for the Weir River in Weymouth, where WRC determination added the Weir River basin to the High Stress category.

MassDEP can use the stressed basin classification as an indicator of stress conditions in streams located within a particular stress classified subbasin. While WRC's Stressed Basin Report provides a first step in evaluating stress, the best way to assess stream flow is to gauge flow at each stream.

Currently, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) collects real-time flow data at 131 stream gauges in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. This flow data can be accessed at http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ma/nwis/

Map of USGS Gauging Stations

Maintaining Strong Performance
The Massachusetts and Rhode Island stream gauge network includes 131 stream gauges maintained by the USGS in cooperation with funding provided by MassDEP, MA Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, individual towns, regional water companies, and water pollution control entities. In 2006, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA) contracted with USGS to establish and install approximately 30 new gauges along with additional funding for two years of operation and maintenance costs. The new gauges will deliver real time data via telemetry to the USGS web page. One year of operation and maintenance cost approximately $13,000 to $16,000 per gauge. MassDEP's cost share to operate and maintain the cooperative stream-gauging network in SFY2008 is $274,384.

Improving results
The more locations for gathering flow data, the more accurate the assessment of a stream's hydrologic health. Water withdrawals from headwaters can impact smaller tributary streams, but without gauges at those tributaries, the impact of the withdrawals on flow conditions can't be measured. Often those withdrawals are discharged downstream so no reduction in flow is reflected in the downstream gauge. A net inflow of water just above the gauge will make it look like sufficient flow exists throughout the basin, but upstream of that inflow, conditions could be very different. To better understand flow conditions, the network of stream gauges should be expanded to measure actual flows at various locations along all major rivers and along tributaries.

MassDEP is exploring options to address this data gap and acquire water quantity information, including funding stream flow studies and adding requirements for monitoring in Water Management Act (WMA) permits or elsewhere.

Detailed Work Plans

To address this data gap, MassDEP contracted with USGS to develop a Sustainable Yield Estimator (SYE) Project. The study will develop a desktop screening tool for MassDEP/WMA to evaluate cumulative impacts on a stream location anywhere in Massachusetts with a click of a mouse. At a point of interest, including ungauged sites, the SYE will output natural streamflow, along with present day (impacted) flow that results from water withdrawals and discharges. The SYE will also allow MassDEP to analyze effects with varying levels of protective streamflow in an attempt to balance competing interests for limited water resources.

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Control water withdrawals - Permitting

Summary:

Indicator: Percent of public water supply (PWS) permits containing conservation performance standards

Why is this important?
Stream flows are affected by many human activities, including wastewater disposal, leaking pipes, the creation of impervious surfaces (hard surfaces that do not allow water to be absorbed), dams and water withdrawals. All of these factors are important and are addressed under a variety of programs within MassDEP. The Water Management Act (WMA) controls primarily withdrawals of water. While not the only factor that affects stream flows, proper control of withdrawals is a key component to protecting our rivers and streams and restoring flow impaired waters. Permitted withdrawals under the Water Management Act are approximately 15% of the total regulated volume of water withdrawn in the Commonwealth in an average year. Although permitted withdrawals are a limited part of the total problem, they are important and do provide a mechanism for not only holding the line against making any existing problems worse, but also starting toward significant improvements. This indicator measures how MassDEP is doing at controlling withdrawals through water management permits and requiring strategies to reduce the demand of water to avoid wasting water, especially in basins that are already stressed.

This indicator measures those permits that include a performance standard requiring a PWS to meet residential gallons per capita day (RGPCD) limit of 65 and unaccounted-for-water (UAW) use of 10%. This performance standard currently applies to all PWS in high and medium stress basins and water suppliers with Inter-Basin Transfer approvals issued by the Water Resources Commission.

How are we doing?
Currently, 30% of the permits issued for water withdrawal include the conservation performance standard for RGPCD and UAW. In addition to performance standards for UAW and RGPCD, permits in high and medium stress basins also include conditions limiting non-essential outside water use and be required to evaluate the feasibility of mitigating any increase in authorized water use.

With the adoption of the new Water Management Permitting Policy in April 2004, MassDEP expects the number of permits containing performance standards and demand management controls to increase. The Policy describes MassDEP's work to review and condition permits relative to basin stress in order to protect aquatic habitat and ensure a stable water budget for all basins, especially those under high or medium stress. Implementation of this policy will dramatically increase the number of permits that have controls designed to prevent waste of  valuable water resources. In addition, all WMA permits are reviewed on a 5-year cycle. At the time of a permit's 5-Year Review, MassDEP will amend permits that have water sources located in high and medium stress basins to include higher level performance standards.

Workplan:

What's behind the numbers:

  • The majority of water authorized by the Water Management Act (WMA) is controlled by registrations rather than permits. Registered public water suppliers (PWS) control 85% of all authorized water withdrawals. Some registrants also hold permits.
  • One-third of permits and registrations are located in basins that contain high stress segments
  • 30% of PWS permits contain performance standards.
  • The data indicates that there is no relationship between compliance and basin stress or a relationship between the number of permits and registrations in a basin and the degree of basin stress. However, if the majority of the regulated community is in compliance, yet there is increasing stress in basins, the regulations may not be protecting critical flows.
  • For High and Medium Stress Basins, Performance Standards will be placed on permits that limit residential water use to 65 gallons per capita day and unaccounted for water to 10% or less per year. These performance standards will be raised to 80 gallons per capita day for residential water use and 15 % or less per year for unaccounted for water.
Water Management Act Authorized Water Withdrawals by Watershed
WatershedNumber of RegistrationsNumber of PermitsDCR Basin w/ high or medium stress segmentsPWS Permits with Conservation Performance Standards
    65/10*80/15*
Hudson86m  
Housatonic 17  9  
Deerfield82m  
Westfield96m 1
Farmington00h/m  
Connecticut3222m 3
Millers95h/m  
Chicopee2011h/m  
Quinebaug32m1 
French52m  
Nashua4118m22
Blackstone2620h/m25
Merrimack2824  5
SuAsCo3318h/m1 
Shawsheen61m  
Parker65h  
Ipswich1911h9 
N. Coastal157  2
Bos Harbor25 15   
Charles3021  
S. Coastal7817 
Cape8624  
Islands107  3
Buzzards Bay20734  2
Taunton13247  2
Mt. Hope82   
Ten Mile87  1
Totals869342 2238
notes: Number of permits and registrations includes Public Water Suppliers, Golf Courses, Agricultural, and Industrial users. Number of PWS permits with conservation performance standards includes appealed permits. Source: WMA Database 8/2/07

 

Maintaining Strong Performance
The Water Management Act is the state's primary regulatory tool for controlling and balancing water use throughout the state. Water withdrawals over 100,000 gallons per day must have a registration or a permit. Each permit is scheduled for review every 5 years and all permits in a basin are reviewed on the same 5-year review cycle.

The new Water Management Permit Policy allows MassDEP to review and condition permits relative to basin stress in order to protect aquatic habitat and ensure a stable water budget for all basins, especially those under high or medium stress. The program will implement the new water management policy for permit and permit amendments and 5-year reviews by imposing water conservation and reporting standards, advanced site screening criteria, evaluating offsets to mitigate increased water loss to the basin, and denying requests that will result in significant impacts and that can not be mitigated.

In order to protect aquatic habitat, MassDEP has established that mandatory restrictions on non-essential outside water use be triggered either by a streamflow threshold or based on a calendar trigger. Restrictions will be required when stream flow falls below the US Fish and Wildlife's New England Base Flow (ABF) default value of 0.5 cubic feet per second square mile (cfsm)* for three consecutive days (*or other number based on site specific stream flow), or from May 1 through September 30.

The new WMA policy will require conditions be placed on all new permits and on existing permits during the 5-year reviews to control seasonal demand, and limit unaccounted for water and Residential Gallons Per Capita Day (RGPCD). A revised guidance document outlining the implementation of the policy was issued in January 2006. The revisions to the guidance reflected the input provided by a focus group that convened in May 2005 to evaluate the policy and its implementation.

Improving Results 
Effective planning and management of water use and conservation is necessary to ensure adequate volume and quality of water for all citizens of the Commonwealth. Setting withdrawal limits through permit conditions and possibly registration conditions establishes a mechanism for managing ground and surface water in the Commonwealth as a single hydrological system and ensuring a balance among competing water withdrawals and uses. By placing demand controls on permits such as limiting non-essential outside water use when stream flow falls below habitat needs, we are ensuring the protection of ecological health while still meeting human and economic needs. As previously mentioned, approximately 85% of the water allocated is done so through registration statements. To ensure the most efficient use of our water resources, and to deter registrants from giving up their permits to avoid meeting our performance standards,MassDEP is evaluating updating registrations at the time of renewal to include some conservation conditions.

The information we get from studies to determine desirable stream flows and from gauging current flows will be useful in determining what limits and conditions should be included in permits. At the same time MassDEP is evaluating WMA permitting controls and other aspects of water management that affect stream flows, such as wastewater treatment and stormwater management that need to be considered. Water withdrawals do not necessarily impair stream flows when wastewater is treated and kept in the basin and impervious surfaces are limited. Water is not wasted and stormwater is recharged. Stream flows are best protected when these interrelated aspects of water management are considered together.

Other tasks that are necessary to ensure permit conditions are effective at protecting water resources and balancing water use are as follows:

  • Track environmental conditions that can be used as indicators of success. This will require changes to monitoring and tracking programs and increased resources for staff and equipment.
  • In order to assess the impact the WMA has on managing water use, the program needs to improve reporting and data management to support the WMA as an instrument to achieve efficient water management.
  • Develop guidance documents and data management protocol to ensure implementation of new permitting policy.
  • Identify withdrawals subject to the Act.

Detailed Work Plan
Water Management Policy:
The Department will continue to improve the implementation and effectiveness of the new WMA Policy by:

  • Working with a Technical Work Group and our Advisory Committee to evaluate a Best Management Practice approach to offsetting future withdrawal increases, and evaluating a flexible approach to the implementation of summer water use restrictions for those meeting our RGPCD Performance Standard.
  • The Department continues to revise the Annual Statistical Report Form (ASR) that is filled out each year by all public water suppliers. Despite annual revisions to the ASR, and significant improvements in the 2006 ASR, there continues to be a lot of variability in how suppliers interpret terms on the ASR (e.g., one supplier might include pipe-flushing as unaccounted for water, another might not) and in how suppliers calculate types of water use (e.g., are college dormitories classed as institutional water use or residential water use). The Water Management Program uses information from the ASRs to assess attainment of the performance thresholds in the Policy. MassDEP seeks to ensure a "level playing field" for all suppliers and that the information be both consistent and accurate.

Water Management Registrations:
The WMA registration renewal process began in FFY2007 and approximately 160 cranberry registrations were renewed. MassDEP will be reviewing and issuing approximately 708 additional registrations in FFY2008, and initiating enforcement for those registrants not complying with their registrations or those not filing a renewal form. MassDEP is also evaluating including registration conditions that require the efficient use of our water resources. Considering registrations account for 85% of the water allocated, these actions could have a significant impact on the condition of water resources in Massachusetts.

Water Management Permitting:
An analysis of past 5-year review performance indicates that MassDEP is not always completing reviews on schedule. This failure reflects the delays incurred as a result of on-going policy deliberations involved with the implementation of the 2004 Permitting Policy. Issuance of permit modifications in High and Medium Stressed basins were held throughout the deliberations of the Blue Ribbon Panel, and continue to be delayed as measures are evaluated to provide flexibility to those meeting the RGPCD Performance Standard and in the development of a Best Management Approach to offsetting increased withdrawal volumes.

Implementing the new WMA policy may result in increased appeals, an increase in the time required for review of new permits and 5-year reviews, and more time spent on compliance and enforcement. The new WMA policy requires permits to contain special conditions that require additional information be supplied from a permit holder in their Annual Reports and requires a more frequent and more detailed review of water use. Maintaining compliance with the WMA regulations and policies may require annual review of statistical reports to ensure that performance standards are met and any required compliance plans are adhered to. The Water Management Program will begin an examination of the review process to identify how the permitting and 5-year review process can be streamlined in order to maximize staff resources and maintain the 5-year review schedule.

Work Load
Projected Work Load by Region and Basin FY 2008

RegionCarry OverNew Assignments5 YR reviews for FY 2008Registrations/Renewals
WERO Conn (3)
Westfield (6)
Deerfield (1)
Housatonic (9) 
Millers (3)
Chicopee (9) 
3190 
CERO Blackstone (5)
Charles (5)
French (1)
Merrimack (1)
Concord (6) 
Nashua (18)
Chicopee (2)
Millers (2) 
40 122 
NERO N. Coastal (5)
Boston Harbor (4)
Parker (3)
Charles (11)
Shawsheen (1)
Merrimack (15)
Concord (8) 
 47 108 
SEROTaunton (21)
Mt. Hope (1)
Boston Harbor (10)
Blackstone (2)
Charles (2)
S. Coastal (10)
Ten Mile (4)
Islands (2)
Buzzards Bay (31)90388
Note: Permits issued, modified, or amended after 7/1/2006 or currently under appeal will not require a 5 year review in FY 2008. This is reflected in the number of new permits assignments.

Data Management

The existing WMA database has many shortcomings including erroneous data, missing fields, limited report generation capabilities, missing and/or inaccurate data. In addition, many staff developed their own "private" databases to suit their individual needs. As a result there are too many conflicting databases where data cannot be queried or cross-referenced leaving it with limited value. The Bureau of Resource Protection intends to:

  1. Develop a data management subcommittee to work with the Information Technology Office (ITO) to institute changes to the WMA database. The subcommittee will identify ways to promote a single database to track permits, 5-year reviews, basin stress conditions, compliance and enforcement, permit conditions, and monitoring reports. The subcommittee will develop improvements to generating reports and displaying data through GIS. It is critical that these changes be made.
  2. Develop a schedule and protocol to ensure data is entered accurately and in a timely manner.

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Control water withdrawals - Compliance

Summary:

Indicator: Number/Percent of discharges to ground waters in significant noncompliance with permits

Why is this important?
Permits designed to protect public health and the environment are only effective if the permittee complies with the limits imposed. Maintaining compliance with these permits helps assure that drinking water and surface waters are protected from pollution.

How are we doing?

In early 2000, an evaluation of the facilities regulated by the Groundwater Discharge Permit Program demonstrated that over 80% of the facilities were out of compliance with one or more program requirements. In response to this finding, MassDEP adopted a Comprehensive Compliance and Enforcement Strategy in FY 2001. The first 3 years of the strategy, the significant noncompliance rate decreased to 23%. However, FY 2004 showed a slight increase in this percentage and FY 2005 & 2006 showed a greater increase in noncompliance with rates of 57.5% and 63.5% respectively. The reason for the increases is due to several factors, two of which are the transition of enforcement reviews and enforcement action issuance from Boston to the regional offices and the initiation of electronic reporting which allowed some leniency for missing DMRs. In FY 2007, the noncompliance rate was reduced to 47.8%. Cursory review shows that effluent violations continue to be the largest contributors to the noncompliance rate. Boston will continue to work with the regional offices in the effort to improve compliance.

Workplan:

What's behind the numbers: The majority of registered and permitted users complied with authorized withdrawal limits in 2006; only 1.6 % exceeded their authorized volume, a reduction from the 2% that exceeded in 2005. Although these are good statistics, we note that it reflects compliance by entities with existing registrations and permits, and does not include any withdrawers who exceed the Water Management Act (WMA) permitting threshold but do not have a permit or registration.

There are nine hundred and thirty eight (9387) separate registrations and/or permittees that are regulated under the Water Management Act. The regulated universe includes users such as: public water suppliers, industrial, commercial, agriculture - golf courses, cranberry growers, nurseries and farms; and 'others' such as; ski areas, fish hatcheries, and sand/gravel operations. The withdrawal volume by sector is shown below.

Of the 938 entities with registrations and/or permits, only fifteen (15) entities exceeded their authorized withdrawal volumes, resulting in a 98.4 % compliance rate. In calendar year 2006, those that were over their permit or registration volumes is as follows:

  • Public water suppliers - six (6) exceeded their allowable limit.
  • Cranberry growers - eight (8) exceeded their allowable limit.
  • Golf Courses - No one exceeded their allowable limit
  • Others- One (1) exceeded their allowable limit

Of the 15 entities that exceeded withdrawal limits, MassDEP issued two enforcement orders, three will be addressed through permitting, and eight cases are under investigation. Two cases are on hold pending resolution of federal enforcement action.

For calendar year 2006, ninety four percent (94%) of the WMA registrants/permit holders complied with annual reporting requirements.

The above graph represents the fifteen (15) entities that MassDEP has confirmed have exceeded their authorized water withdrawal volumes and that are in violation of the Water Management Act. The graph also depicts the 55 entities that have not filed an annual report for withdrawal volume. Those fifty-five (55) are in violation of the Water Management Act for failing to file an annual report and may also be in violation for exceeding authorized permit volumes, but this cannot be determined because they did not file the report providing the necessary information. Of the fifty-Five (55) non-filers, twenty-nine (29) are cranberry bogs, eleven (11) are industrial users, three (3) are agricultural, five (5) are golf courses, and seven (7) are public water suppliers. Of the fifty-five non-filers, forty-one (41) of them are registrants who will need to address the failure to file and their failure to pay annual compliance fees at the time of registration renewal in FFY2008.

Of the fifty-five non-filers, twelve (12) have sources of supply that are located in watersheds identified as having either "High" or Medium" stress levels. Of the fourteen (14) exceedances of authorized withdrawal volumes, three (3) are in "High" or "Medium" stressed watersheds.

The number of exceedances of the authorized withdrawal volume fell from twenty-two (22) in 2005, to fifteen (15) in 2006. While the reasons may vary for the reduction in violations it may in part be attributable to a wetter than normal late spring early summer in the summer of 2006, and the increased visibility of the Water Management Program in recent years. In 2005, three (3) golf courses and two (2) agricultural users, use types that reflect climatic conditions, violated their authorized withdrawal volumes. In 2006, no golf courses or agricultural users exceeded. Of the fifteen (15) exceedances, eight (8) were cranberry growers who had constructed additional acreage, and five (5) were public water suppliers who may not actually be exceeding but reflect either data reporting issues or a failure to manage withdrawals from two basins to effectively

This data, along with data on stream flow conditions, indicates that the withdrawals of water are not the only, and in some cases not even the major, cause of basin stress. However, maintaining compliance with limits on water withdrawals contributes to the protection of stream flows while meeting human needs for clean water.

Maintaining Strong Performance
Ninety-eight percent (98%) of registered and permitted water withdrawers report compliance with authorized water volumes. Compliance with authorized volumes is important. The extent to which compliance with authorized volumes is sufficient to protect water resources depends upon the authorized volumes allowed in permits and registrations. Permit conditions must ensure that water resources are managed in a way that protects the water resources and creates a balance among competing water withdrawals and uses.

While the focus of MassDEP's compliance work is on withdrawal volumes, compliance with reporting requirements is also critical to protecting rivers and streams. The timely filing of an Annual Statistical Report (ASR) is important because it provides us with information that helps us detect exceedances of authorized withdrawal volumes and identify potential withdrawal impacts. MassDEP has made it a priority to conduct timely reviews of annual reports and continue to improve compliance by enhancing tracking systems and taking quick action to remedy reporting violations.

To achieve the goals of the Water Management Act, anyone withdrawing more than 100,000 gallons per day must comply with the Act, regulations, and policy. MassDEP is taking steps to identify water withdrawals subject to the Water Management Act. Currently, the program is examining the golf industry for compliance with the requirement to undergo review and obtain approval before using more than the permitting threshold volume of water. The Water Management Program (WMP) also is developing a comprehensive compliance strategy to address the universe of potential exceedances of the permitting threshold and to establish a consistent enforcement approach. The Program will continue efforts to ensure the timely filing of annual reports and initiate enforcement for those who fail to file or violate conditions of their permits or registrations, particularly for violators in high and medium stress basins.

Improving results 
MassDEP aims to maintain the existing strong compliance record and will continue to improve mechanisms to identify violators and implement expeditious enforcement. Improving the tracking and timely review of annual reports along with the continuation of projects to identify all withdrawals subject to the WMA, will achieve greater compliance with the WMA and new permit conditions. The compliance job will become more challenging as more conservation requirements are included in permits.

The WMP compliance priorities are:

  1. Ensure filing of timely and accurate annual reports;
  2. Ensure authorized withdrawals do not exceed authorized withdrawal volumes;
  3. Ensure that withdrawals subject to the Water Management Act apply for a permit;
  4. Require all permitted users to comply with the conditions of the permit.
  5. Maintaining compliance with the WMA regulations and policies will require annual review of statistical reports submitted by registered and permitted water withdrawers to ensure that performance standards are met and any required compliance plans are adhered to along with prompt follow-up with appropriate enforcement action.

Detailed Work Plans
WMA staffing was increased in 2006 in 3 of the 4 regions by 1 FTE to conduct 5 -year compliance reviews, track compliance with new permit conditions, review ASRs annually, and initiate enforcement for those that fail to file ASR or exceed permit conditions.

Work with the Information Technology Office (ITO) to enhance WMA database to improve tracking and compliance.

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Improve stream flow

Summary:

Indicator: Measured streamflow improvements from existing flows toward targeted protective flows in stressed basins.

Why is this important?
When fully developed, this indicator will measure MassDEP's progress in improving conditions in basins experiencing stress from impaired flows. The analysis will include information on what activities contribute to the water imbalance and point to potential remedies. A successful program will make progress restoring impaired flows and at the same time provide enough clean water for public health and safety and economic development. The graphic presented here is a hypothetical example of the kind of data and measurement of progress that we hope to have in the future.

How are we doing?
Currently there is no data to measure performance on this indicator. MassDEP is working toward protective flow targets to serve as a baseline against which progress can be measured. Improving stream conditions will require evaluating the findings of cumulative impacts, and rethinking where and to what extent we allow water withdrawals, disposal of wastewater, stormwater management, the development of land, and effective conservation of water in order to maintain protective stream flows while we provide water for human use. In this light, MassDEP is cooperating with a USGS investigative study to develop the Sustainable Yield Estimator Project. This project will provide a GIS-based screening tool for MassDEP to generate natural streamflow and (with water use and discharge data) present-day flow at ungauged sites for perennial streams in Massachusetts. This tool will help MassDEP evaluate cumulative impacts and consider varying protective stream thresholds to achieve a better balance between competing water uses.

Ultimately the goal is to improve those rivers and streams impacted by reduced flows as much as possible within the mandate of the Water Management Act (MGL 21G), which establishes " mechanisms for managing ground and surface water in the Commonwealth as a single hydrological system and ensuring, where necessary, a balance among competing water withdrawals and uses." MassDEP is working to conserve water with the implementation of the Water Management Policy. This policy requires proposals for new or increased withdrawals in high and medium stressed basins to include an evaluation of water management strategies to offset proposed withdrawals by reducing out of basin flow or increasing water returned to the basin. MassDEP expects that the implementation of the policy will improve conditions by reducing overall water use in stressed watersheds.

Workplan:

What's behind the numbers: MassDEP is in the process of analyzing emerging science, such as a recent USGS publication as a basis for establishing protective stream flow markers for habitat protection statewide. Protective flow targets will provide a base against which existing flow levels can be compared. Detailed water budget analysis will allow MassDEP to identify where and why water budget imbalances exist in more detail and likely at a smaller scale than the existing USGS stream gauge network.

Maintaining Strong Performance
Through the adoption and implementation of the new "Water Management Policy for Permit and Permit Amendment Applications and 5-Year Reviews effective April 5, 2004, specific performance standards for water use need to be met. These performance standards require that public water suppliers in high and medium stressed basins (as defined by the MA Water Resources Commission report "Stressed Basins in Massachusetts," approved December 13, 2001) meet a performance standard of 65 gallons per person per day for residential water use and have an unaccounted-for water loss of less than 10% in their system. The Policy also requires an evaluation of the feasibility of reducing water losses to the basin for new withdrawals and increases in authorized water withdrawals in stressed basins. When new sources or increases in withdrawal volumes are proposed, MassDEP will evaluate whether additional conditions and offsets are necessary to achieve the appropriate balance between competing water uses. MassDEP believes these requirements will improve conditions by reducing overall water use, particularly in those basins identified as being "stressed" in Massachusetts.

The Water Management Program will continue to rely on the USGS-National Water Information System (NWIS) for current water resources conditions and comparisons to historical flows.

Improving Results
MassDEP is taking many steps to improve flow conditions in stressed rivers. Over the next year the Inflow/Infiltration conditions in NPDES permits will be reviewed for compliance in order to reduce the potential large volume of water that can be lost to leaks in sewer pipes and water transported out of basin by stormwater flowing into sewers. MassDEP is encouraging communities to develop plans to meet necessary water demand and deal with wastewater while improving conditions in stressed areas. Water Resource Planning is encouraged through the State Revolving Fund (SRF) program and priority points will be offered to communities with comprehensive water resources plans. These plans address how future water and wastewater services will provide for growth within communities, requiring wastewater project proponents to demonstrate that 75% of the flow within a new sewer system is comparable to the system that was in existence as of 7/1/95, and requiring mechanisms to reduce flow out of basin.

Flow data and historical comparisons are only available on streams with USGS stream gauging stations, which currently number about 131 in MA & RI on larger, perennial streams and rivers. There is little data available on smaller streams that may be affected by low stream flow. To obtain a more accurate assessment of changes to stream flow and basin-wide flow restoration, EOEEA has contracted with USGS to establish and install approximately 30 new gauges in 2006 & 2007. Approximately 20 of these new gauges have been installed to date.

MassDEP will be reviewing studies that better define stream flow requirements and methods for restoring flows such as the EPA funded study of the restoration of the Ipswich River Watershed. The study will quantify the benefit of low-impact stormwater infiltration and recharge techniques and water conservation techniques. This project will implement and assess Low Impact Design (LID) developments and quantify the water savings of innovative conservation techniques.

The MassDEP/Water Management Program is also partnering on another USGS investigative study to develop the Sustainable Yield Estimator Project. Through new regression equations, this project will provide a GIS-based screening tool for MassDEP to generate natural streamflow and present day flow (with water use and disposal data) at ungauged sites for perennial streams in Massachusetts. This tool will help MassDEP evaluate cumulative impacts and consider varying protective stream thresholds to achieve a better balance between competing water uses.

Over the next year MassDEP will convene a technical work group that will evaluate the potential list of Best Management Practices (BMP) that may be implemented to offset increases in water withdrawals. A BMP approach to offsetting increased withdrawals was identified by the Blue Ribbon Panel and the Natural Resources Committee as a potential alternative to address the concerns expressed over the uncertainty in the existing offset requirements. MassDEP will also be evaluating past and current studies to quantify and track water savings/improvements achieved, to inform future policy directions on offsets. MassDEP may also continue to prepare guidance on determining the feasibility of offsetting water increases. Some of the potential mechanisms are using reclaimed water, retrofitting stormwater, reducing inflow and infiltration, and implementing water use restrictions. In order to ensure that permits comply with the new WMA permitting policy, new procedures for tracking permit conditions and stream flow data, determining compliance, and maintaining databases will be developed.

Detailed Work Plans
MassDEP has organized a technical work group to discuss a Best Management Practice approach to offsetting future withdrawal increases. The work group may also continue to develop guidance for conducting an offset feasibility study for water withdrawals that exceed baseline withdrawal volumes. The Water Management Act Program will continue to monitor and collaborate with on-going, related USGS investigated studies along with streamflow targets being developed through the Water Resources Commission and the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

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