Triennial Review of Virginia’s Water-quality Standards in Public Comment Period August 22–September 21, 2016

From August 22–September 21, 2016, the Virginia State Water Control Board/Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is accepting public comments on the Final Text of proposed amendments to the Commonwealth’s water-quality standards, as part of the triennial review of those standards, 9 VAC 25-260 in the Virginia Administrative Code.

Virginia Code section 62.1-44.15 (3a), part of Virginia’s State Water Control Law, requires the State Water Control Board to review and update the Commonwealth’s water-quality standards at least every three years.

The publication of the proposed Final Text is the latest stage in the review of changes that were proposed in draft form in summer 2015.  This proposed regulatory action is identified on the Virginia Regulatory Townhall, online at, as Action 4017; the Final Text stage is Stage 7442.

More information on the proposed changes resulting from this review is available from the Regulatory Townhall at the Web site listed above.  Following is the DEQ’s summary of the proposed changes, from the Final Regulation Agency Background Document available at that Web site; shown first are changes from the summer 2015 draft proposed changes, then the substance of the proposal in the Final Text.


•The aquatic life water quality criteria concentrations for lead in saltwater were corrected to show the criteria as “dissolved” concentrations by multiplying the old criteria by the saltwater conversion factor of 0.951. The acute saltwater criterion was converted from 240 μg/L to 230 μg/l and the chronic criterion was converted from 9.3 to 8.8 μg/l.
•The proposed updates to 8 water quality criteria designed to protect human health have been removed and will be addressed in a separate rule-making which will include consideration for adoption of human health water quality criteria for these 8, as well as an additional 86 toxic substances based on new recommended criteria finalized by EPA in June 2015.
•The proposed adoption of the new water quality criteria for ammonia to protect aquatic life in freshwater has been removed and will be proposed as a separate rule-making in order to further evaluate implementation issues.

•The proposed designation for four Class VII Swamp Water designations have been withdrawn in order to gather additional information to better support any classification change.

(Relevant section of the Virginia Administrative Code is shown in parentheses; bolding and information in brackets added.)

*Definitions (9 VAC 25-260-5)
This section now includes a definition for “wetlands.”
*Application of pH Criteria in Lakes/Reservoirs (9 VAC 25-260-50)
This section was amended so that the pH criteria only apply to the epilimnion of thermally stratified lakes when they are stratified.
*Table of Parameters (Toxics) (9 VAC 25-260-140)
**An amendment was proposed to the cadmium criteria for the protection of freshwater aquatic life, based on EPA guidance issued in 2001 and updated with additional revisions included in a report published by the U.S Geological Survey in 2010. However, subsequent to the public comment period, in a November 2015 notification from EPA, DEQ staff became aware of a pending update to EPA’s national recommended ambient water quality criteria for cadmium in order to reflect the latest scientific information. To avoid confusion and the potential for adoption of freshwater aquatic life criteria that are more restrictive than the pending federal recommendations without justification, staff recommended removing the cadmium amendments from the rule-making. Updates to the cadmium criteria will be addressed through a future rule-making.
**Freshwater and saltwater aquatic life criteria for lead were amended to include a conversion factor to convert the “old” criteria concentrations from “total” lead to “dissolved” concentrations (as measured in a water sample that has been filtered through a 0.45 micron filter). All current Virginia aquatic life criteria for metals except for lead include a conversion factor that allow for the criteria to be expressed as the dissolved fraction of the metal. The dissolved fraction is the most biologically available portion that contributes to potential toxicity. Staff recommended applying conversion factors recommended by EPA as being applicable to the Virginia criteria for lead. This will make the criteria more stringent by approximately 5%-22% because it is expressed as dissolved lead without the inclusion of any particulate lead that may be present. The saltwater conversion factor of 0.951 was inadvertently left out of proposed language and subsequently added since proposal. Inclusion of the conversion factor is scientifically correct and applicable in Virginia.
**Amendments were proposed to update 8 human health criteria parameters due to changes in either oral slope factors for carcinogens or reference doses for non-carcinogens, which are utilized in risk-assessment calculations from which the criteria are derived. The updates (based on EPA recommendations available at the time that Triennial Review commenced) to the methodology for calculating human health criteria would have made new criteria concentrations for carbon tetrachloride, methylene chloride, nitrobenzene and tetrachloroethylene increase between 88 and 1779%. Updates for cyanide, hexachloroethane, pentachlorophenol, and trichloroethylene decrease  between 64 and 97% compared to the current criteria. During the Notice of Public Comment period EPA released an update for 94 human health parameters that included the above compounds. Staff recommended removing these 8 parameters from the rule-making because to change the criteria to match EPA’s most recent information would be a substantial change from the proposal without opportunity for public input and comment.
**Acrolein and carbaryl are new criteria to protect the aquatic life use. Acrolein is a biocide frequently used in recirculating process water systems for slime control and carbaryl is the active ingredient in the commonly available pesticide Sevin®.
**A ‘Biotic Ligand Model’ for copper intended to be used on a site-specific basis was included. The model accounts for waterbody site specific physiochemical characteristics for organic carbon, pH, temperature, alkalinity, calcium, chloride, magnesium, potassium, sodium, sulfate instead of just hardness as the current criteria does. Potentially it could be used in lieu of a water-effects ratio study.
**The manganese criterion for waters designated as public water supply was deleted. The manganese criterion is based on a federally recommended Secondary Maximum Contaminant Level (SMCL) that is intended to be applied to finished drinking water as supplied to the consumers to prevent laundry staining.  As such, the current criterion is inappropriate for application to natural surface waters.
*Ammonia Criteria (9 VAC 25-260-155)
Amendments were postponed to include new nationally recommended aquatic life criteria for ammonia in freshwater. Like the current criteria, the proposed criteria are calculated as a function of temperature and pH and accounts for the presence/absence of trout and early life stages of fish. The recalculated mmonia criteria incorporate toxicity data for freshwater mussels in the family Unionidae which are the most sensitive organisms in the recalculation data base. The new criteria are more restrictive primarily because more recent toxicity data show that mussels and snails (including endangered species) are very sensitive to ammonia and the current ammonia criteria do not provide sufficient protection for these species. Site specific options to use alternate criteria calculated by omitting mussel toxicity data were proposed to be used in waters where a demonstration has been made that mussels are absent; however, consultation with USFWS [U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service] and DGIF [Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries] indicate freshwater mussels should be considered ubiquitous in Virginia and likely to be present in any perennial waterbody. Agency staff have recommended postponing this amendment for a future rule-making.
*Chesapeake Bay Dissolved Oxygen Criteria in (9 VAC 25-260-185)
Proposed language now clarifies that the dissolved oxygen criteria in section 9 VAC 25-260-50 are superseded by the dissolved oxygen criteria listed in 9 VAC 25-260-185 for Class II waters within the Chesapeake Bay basin.
*Nutrient Criteria for man-made lakes and reservoirs (9 VAC 25-260-187)
Three impoundments have been added to the list of reservoirs to which chlorophyll-a and total phosphorus criteria are applied: 1) Lake Orange, a DGIF owned and managed warm water fishery in Orange County that is fertilized; and, 2) Powhatan Lakes, two DGIF warm water fisheries in close proximity to each other in Powhatan County.
*Special Standards (9 VAC 25-260-310)
Special standard ‘m’ includes language to clarify that the effluent limitations applicable to all wastewater-treatment facilities in the Chickahominy River basin above Walker’s Dam only apply to treatment facilities treating an organic nutrient source.  Two new special standards (‘ee’ and ‘ff’) set a recommended maximum temperature of 26 C for Tinker Creek and 28 C for sections of the Roanoke River from May 1 – Oct 31 that are stocked with trout only during the winter months. Current maximum temperature criteria for stockable trout waters of 21 C apply year-round.
*River Basin Section Tables (9 VAC 25-260-390 – 540)
The public water supply designation for an old raw water intake on the James River in Chesterfield County, previously utilized by the American Tobacco Company, was deleted. Consultation with the Virginia Department of Health indicate no known active intake for potable water has been there in the past 35 years and VDH could not find any records about a domestic water intake at that location in years prior to 1978.  There are proposed minor clarifications/corrections to delineations for trout stream designations, basin
section description clarifications, additions of new Class VII Swamp Waters, water authority name changes, and other miscellaneous corrections.

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