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e-CFR data is current as of August 6, 2020

Title 40Chapter ISubchapter DPart 131Subpart B → §131.14


Title 40: Protection of Environment
PART 131—WATER QUALITY STANDARDS
Subpart B—Establishment of Water Quality Standards


§131.14   Water quality standards variances.

States may adopt WQS variances, as defined in §131.3(o). Such a WQS variance is subject to the provisions of this section and public participation requirements at §131.20(b). A WQS variance is a water quality standard subject to EPA review and approval or disapproval.

(a) Applicability. (1) A WQS variance may be adopted for a permittee(s) or water body/waterbody segment(s), but only applies to the permittee(s) or water body/waterbody segment(s) specified in the WQS variance.

(2) Where a State adopts a WQS variance, the State must retain, in its standards, the underlying designated use and criterion addressed by the WQS variance, unless the State adopts and EPA approves a revision to the underlying designated use and criterion consistent with §§131.10 and 131.11. All other applicable standards not specifically addressed by the WQS variance remain applicable.

(3) A WQS variance, once adopted by the State and approved by EPA, shall be the applicable standard for purposes of the Act under §131.21(d) through (e), for the following limited purposes. An approved WQS variance applies for the purposes of developing NPDES permit limits and requirements under 301(b)(1)(C), where appropriate, consistent with paragraph (a)(1) of this section. States and other certifying entities may also use an approved WQS variance when issuing certifications under section 401 of the Act.

(4) A State may not adopt WQS variances if the designated use and criterion addressed by the WQS variance can be achieved by implementing technology-based effluent limits required under sections 301(b) and 306 of the Act.

(b) Requirements for Submission to EPA. (1) A WQS variance must include:

(i) Identification of the pollutant(s) or water quality parameter(s), and the water body/waterbody segment(s) to which the WQS variance applies. Discharger(s)-specific WQS variances must also identify the permittee(s) subject to the WQS variance.

(ii) The requirements that apply throughout the term of the WQS variance. The requirements shall represent the highest attainable condition of the water body or waterbody segment applicable throughout the term of the WQS variance based on the documentation required in (b)(2) of this section. The requirements shall not result in any lowering of the currently attained ambient water quality, unless a WQS variance is necessary for restoration activities, consistent with paragraph (b)(2)(i)(A)(2) of this section. The State must specify the highest attainable condition of the water body or waterbody segment as a quantifiable expression that is one of the following:

(A) For discharger(s)-specific WQS variances:

(1) The highest attainable interim criterion; or

(2) The interim effluent condition that reflects the greatest pollutant reduction achievable; or

(3) If no additional feasible pollutant control technology can be identified, the interim criterion or interim effluent condition that reflects the greatest pollutant reduction achievable with the pollutant control technologies installed at the time the State adopts the WQS variance, and the adoption and implementation of a Pollutant Minimization Program.

(B) For WQS variances applicable to a water body or waterbody segment:

(1) The highest attainable interim use and interim criterion; or

(2) If no additional feasible pollutant control technology can be identified, the interim use and interim criterion that reflect the greatest pollutant reduction achievable with the pollutant control technologies installed at the time the State adopts the WQS variance, and the adoption and implementation of a Pollutant Minimization Program.

(iii) A statement providing that the requirements of the WQS variance are either the highest attainable condition identified at the time of the adoption of the WQS variance, or the highest attainable condition later identified during any reevaluation consistent with paragraph (b)(1)(v) of this section, whichever is more stringent.

(iv) The term of the WQS variance, expressed as an interval of time from the date of EPA approval or a specific date. The term of the WQS variance must only be as long as necessary to achieve the highest attainable condition and consistent with the demonstration provided in paragraph (b)(2) of this section. The State may adopt a subsequent WQS variance consistent with this section.

(v) For a WQS variance with a term greater than five years, a specified frequency to reevaluate the highest attainable condition using all existing and readily available information and a provision specifying how the State intends to obtain public input on the reevaluation. Such reevaluations must occur no less frequently than every five years after EPA approval of the WQS variance and the results of such reevaluation must be submitted to EPA within 30 days of completion of the reevaluation.

(vi) A provision that the WQS variance will no longer be the applicable water quality standard for purposes of the Act if the State does not conduct a reevaluation consistent with the frequency specified in the WQS variance or the results are not submitted to EPA as required by (b)(1)(v) of this section.

(2) The supporting documentation must include:

(i) Documentation demonstrating the need for a WQS variance.

(A) For a WQS variance to a use specified in section 101(a)(2) of the Act or a sub-category of such a use, the State must demonstrate that attaining the designated use and criterion is not feasible throughout the term of the WQS variance because:

(1) One of the factors listed in §131.10(g) is met, or

(2) Actions necessary to facilitate lake, wetland, or stream restoration through dam removal or other significant reconfiguration activities preclude attainment of the designated use and criterion while the actions are being implemented.

(B) For a WQS variance to a non-101(a)(2) use, the State must submit documentation justifying how its consideration of the use and value of the water for those uses listed in §131.10(a) appropriately supports the WQS variance and term. A demonstration consistent with paragraph (b)(2)(i)(A) of this section may be used to satisfy this requirement.

(ii) Documentation demonstrating that the term of the WQS variance is only as long as necessary to achieve the highest attainable condition. Such documentation must justify the term of the WQS variance by describing the pollutant control activities to achieve the highest attainable condition, including those activities identified through a Pollutant Minimization Program, which serve as milestones for the WQS variance.

(iii) In addition to paragraphs (b)(2)(i) and (ii) of this section, for a WQS variance that applies to a water body or waterbody segment:

(A) Identification and documentation of any cost-effective and reasonable best management practices for nonpoint source controls related to the pollutant(s) or water quality parameter(s) and water body or waterbody segment(s) specified in the WQS variance that could be implemented to make progress towards attaining the underlying designated use and criterion. A State must provide public notice and comment for any such documentation.

(B) Any subsequent WQS variance for a water body or waterbody segment must include documentation of whether and to what extent best management practices for nonpoint source controls were implemented to address the pollutant(s) or water quality parameter(s) subject to the WQS variance and the water quality progress achieved.

(c) Implementing WQS variances in NPDES permits. A WQS variance serves as the applicable water quality standard for implementing NPDES permitting requirements pursuant to §122.44(d) of this chapter for the term of the WQS variance. Any limitations and requirements necessary to implement the WQS variance shall be included as enforceable conditions of the NPDES permit for the permittee(s) subject to the WQS variance.

[80 FR 51048, Aug. 21, 2015]

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