Water Quality Grants awarded statewide

Aug 28, 2014

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded $100,000 to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality on Wednesday for the agency’s ongoing water quality management planning.

EPA officials said the funds will be used to conduct analysis of chemical samples of rivers, streams and lakes in Arkansas. The federal Clean Water Act allows EPA to issue states funding for regional water quality management planning projects.

Under federal law, each state is required to develop water quality standards to protect lakes, reservoirs, rivers, streams, creeks, and ditches. The Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission adopts those standards for Arkansas, and the ADEQ uses those rules to ensure that designated state waterways are being protected. These designations include drinking water, swimming, fishing, industrial and agricultural use to name a few.

That program has come under scrutiny as the ADEQ continues to monitor water quality near Lake Conway to track any potential environmental impact from an oil spill near Mayflower more than a year ago.

That incident occurred in March 2013 when a pipeline owned by Exxon Mobil Corp. ruptured in a residential neighborhood in the city of Mayflower, displacing dozens of residents and causing a major spill of at least 5,000 barrels of heavy crude oil.

ADEQ is closely reviewing the cleanup and has had inspectors conducting sampling at a number of locations in a cove of Lake Conway and the main body of the lake. The latest inspection by ADEQ was completed on July 14. ExxonMobil, which also posts its analysis of the lake’s water quality to the ADEQ website, conducted its latest analysis on Aug. 14

Under President Obama, the EPA has proposed more stringent changes to the federal water quality standards under the Clean Water Act. The changes, the EPA said, “would improve the regulation’s effectiveness in restoring and maintaining the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters.”

The public comment period for those new standards ended on Jan. 2, 2014.

Separately, ADEQ and the Arkansas Public Service Commission (PSC) will hold a stakeholders’ meeting on Thursday (Aug. 28) to discuss the economic impacts to Arkansas from the EPA’s recently adopted guidelines to cut carbon emissions at coal-fired power plants.

President Obama’s so-called Clean Power Plan mandates a 30% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants by 2030 from 2005 levels, mainly targeting the nation’s fleet of more than 600 coal-fired plants that currently supply the lion’s share of the nation’s electricity needs. In Arkansas, the proposed rules, if adopted by the EPA on June 1, 2015, would cut Arkansas’ carbon emissions by 44%.

Since the last stakeholder’s meeting at ADEQ headquarters on June 25, the Arkansas Senate and House committees on Insurance and Commerce have passed a resolution opposing the federal plan. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has also stated publicly he is reserving the state’s right to possibly join other states in suing the EPA to halt the new guidelines on greenhouse gases.

The pre-Labor Day stakeholder meeting at ADEQ’s headquarters will include presentations from the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association, Arkansas Chamber of Commerce, Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation, Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc. and the Sierra Club.

Eventually, the state regulators and the stakeholder groups will develop recommendations for Arkansas’ statewide plan to meet the EPA’s proposed guidelines.

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