NACWA Raises Concerns with EPA General Permit for Total Nitrogen in Great Bay

(May 13, 2020) – NACWA filed comments on May 7 on a draft general permit for total nitrogen discharges from a handful of clean water utilities on New Hampshire’s Great Bay. Nonpoint runoff and urban stormwater are the major sources of excess nitrogen in Great Bay, so EPA Region 1 – which issues Clean Water Act permits for New Hampshire – crafted the general permit in an effort to provide the impacted communities flexibility to address these sources. The general permit only applies to total nitrogen discharges, with the clean water utilities’ individual permits continuing to apply for all other discharges. Adoption of a truly adaptive approach that provides flexibility for the utilities to focus on nonpoint source nutrient reductions, rather than costly treatment upgrades, could greatly benefit the communities in Great Bay.

NACWA’s comments raised multiple concerns with the draft general permit. Chief among them were aspects of the general permit that limited its adaptability, including requirements that would not allow additional nonpoint source reductions to offset the need for point source controls. NACWA also noted that the use of a general permit, rather than a more flexible framework like Integrated Planning, potentially added unnecessary complications for implementation. In addition, NACWA has raised questions for several years about the translation of narrative criteria to numeric permit limits that underlies Region 1’s work in the Great Bay watershed – concerns that remain unaddressed in the draft permit. NACWA will continue to track developments on the general permit.