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Impaired Waters and TMDLs

Public Participation in Listing Impaired Waters and the TMDL Process

EPA supports public engagement in the state’s listing of impaired water bodies and TMDL process. EPA regulations require states to describe in their Continuing Planning Processes (CPP) the process for involving the public and other stakeholders in the development of the section 303(d) list (40CFR 130.7(a)). EPA encourages the state to provide opportunities for public participation in the development of the Integrated Report and demonstrate how it considered public comments in its final decisions. States can hold public meetings, hearings and other outreach activities to solicit feedback.

EPA policy is to afford the public a chance to provide input and to ensure all viewpoints and suggestions are considered. Entities such as landowners, watershed or environmental organizations, homeowners associations, local businesses, citizen advocates and others all have unique perspectives. Local citizens sometimes know more about what is happening in their watersheds than state agencies, and this knowledge can be a valuable aspect in listing decisions and TMDL development. The public can often offer insights about their community that can improve the quality of TMDLs that are developed.

Among other things, the public’s role in the 303(d) process can be to:

  • Provide data and information to aid in listing decisions.
  • Provide data and information and work with the state in the TMDL development process.
  • Work in conjunction with the state to develop a third-party TMDL.
  • Review and comment on a proposed TMDL.
  • Become knowledgeable of the state’s continual planning process and water quality management plans (see CWA 303(e) and CFR Part 130.6).

Even in a non-regulatory setting, private citizens are encouraged to become involved in maintaining or restoring waters in their neighborhood. Watershed, lake or river associations can provide opportunities to monitor water quality, identify pollutant sources and recommend possible pollution control actions. Many states have dedicated volunteer monitoring programs and provide training to collect viable data to help in their water quality assessments.