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PA EPA REACHES AGREEMENT ON WHOLE EFFLUENT TOXICITY (WET) TEST FOR CLEAN WATER ACT PERMITS
Release Date: 07/31/98
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, JULY 31, 1998
EPA REACHES AGREEMENT ON WHOLE EFFLUENT TOXICITY (WET) TEST FOR CLEAN WATER ACT PERMITS
On July 24, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency entered into a settlement agreement with Western Coalition of Arid States (WestCAS) and Edison Electric Institute (EEI) to resolve litigation over rulemaking to standardize procedures to measure Whole Effluent Toxicity (WET). EPA promulgated the WET Test Methods rulemaking in October of 1996. WET is the total toxic effect of either a wastewater discharge or ambient water as directly measured by the health of aquatic organisms; it has been used since 1984 as the basis for permit limits under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting program. Though EPA still strongly supports and is prepared to defend the reliability of the standardized WET test procedures in court, the Agency engaged in settlement negotiations because highly complex matters, such as the WET test procedures, are better addressed by agencies, rather than courts. In addition to the industry acceptance for WET testing garnered through the settlement agreement, the Agency believes that the terms of the settlement agreement will strengthen the implementation of WET controls through the NPDES permitting program. Tasks the Agency agreed to undertake under the settlement agreement address remaining industry concerns associated with WET testing methodologies, thus, the industry acceptance of the settlement agreement represents a significant step forward for water quality protection efforts. The settlement agreement consists of three major components: multi-laboratory evaluation of 12 WET toxicity tests; development of guidance for NPDES permit writers describing how to take analytic variability associated with WET testing into account and minor clarifications to recommendations and requirements included in the WET test methods manuals. After evaluation of the results of the multi-laboratory testing (and other relevant information), the Agency will propose either to ratify or withdraw each of the WET test methods. In addition, the Agency may later propose modifications to improve any of the WET methods. Prior to and as a result of the settlement agreement, however, the WET test methods initially promulgated by the Agency in 1995 remain in full force and effect. EPA fully supports those test methods as drafted. For further information, call Steve Sweeney in EPA’s Office of General Counsel at 202-260-8739.