SPRINGFIELD --- Fulfilling Governor Rod Blagojevich’s pledge to address the impact of phosphorus in sewage plant discharges, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has asked the Illinois Pollution Control Board to adopt interim standards applying to new and expanding larger municipal and industrial wastewater/sewage treatment plants.
The proposal is part of the Governor’s new “Prairie State Water Quality Initiative” to improve the quality of Illinois lakes and streams.
“We owe it to our future generations to do everything we can now to ensure that they’ll be able to enjoy Illinois’ natural habitat and wildlife for years down the road,” said Governor Blagojevich. “This proposal takes a big step forward in protecting threatened plant and fish life around the state’s many wastewater and sewer treatment facilities.”
“These standards are intended to address those concerns that too much phosphorus in the state’s water sources result in excessive plant growth and algae, may be detrimental to fish and aquatic life, and may cause odor and taste problems in drinking water,” said Illinois EPA Director Renee Cipriano. “The Agency has been working on the proposal at the request of Governor Blagojevich, who pledged to address the phosphorus concerns raised by state and local environmental groups.”
“The Governor’s proposal will help protect drinking water and wildlife across Illinois,” said Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter. “This initiative will help growing communities ensure that local streams and rivers will remain clean, even as population and wastewater discharges increase.”
Under the proposed standards, new or expanding domestic sewer and wastewater treatment facilities that discharge more than 1 million gallons of water a day will be required to reduce their phosphorus content to 1 milligram per liter. Certain industrial facilities will also have the same limit applied to them.
The facilities will be able to meet the limit by incorporating available phosphorus reduction technology. Phosphorus removal can be achieved with either biological or chemical technologies.
Phosphorus removed from the treated wastewater is contained in sludge or bio-solids generated during the sewage treatment process. Phosphorus is a naturally occurring nutrient and a basic building block necessary to support life; too much phosphorus from organic materials in wastewater discharged into a stream or lake may upset the balance in a body of water.
The phosphorous, when disposed through a land application, may increase the nutrient levels in soil, enhancing the soil’s natural ability to sustain growth.
Because there is still scientific debate over how much phosphorus is excessive, Illinois EPA has proposed an “interim” standard that would be in effect for the next several years to allow the science of phosphorous discharge to further evolve.
The Pollution Control Board will hold hearings to obtain testimony from interested constituencies on the proposed standards and then will issue a decision.
Other elements of the Governor’s Prairie State Water Quality Initiative include:
- Providing technical assistance and grants for local watershed coalitions to develop and implement protection plans and to analyze advanced technologies.
- Promoting local stewardship of rivers and lakes, including volunteer cleanups and water quality monitoring.
- Developing watershed cleanup plans through the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) evaluation process, which pinpoints potential pollution sources and identifies strategies to address them.
- Utilizing advanced scientific techniques to monitor mercury levels in water bodies throughout the state. This data will help Illinois EPA devise better control strategies and a reliable way to measure progress.
- Strengthening the Facilities Planning Area (FPA) process, which evaluates the water quality impacts of new or expanded municipal sewage treatment plants.
- Implementing an electronic reporting process in which thousands of monthly discharge sampling reports from regulated wastewater treatment facilities can now be provided through a secure Internet process, increasing efficiency for the facility operators and making it possible for Illinois EPA to analyze data for possible problems more quickly.