Administrative Watch: Impaired Waters List Grows

Administrative Watch: Impaired Waters List Grows

The “impaired waters” list of North Carolina rivers, streams, and lakes recognized as too polluted to meet Clean Water Act standards is growing.

The list is prepared by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) every two years, as part of its job of enforcing the Clean Water Act in the state. The bodies of water in this year’s draft represent a net increase of nearly a third over the 2017 list. It includes almost 1,250 miles of previously unlisted rivers and streams.

The public comment period on the draft list has just closed. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ultimately must review and approve the list, also known as the 303(d) list after the relevant section of the Clean Water Act. Designating a body of water as “impaired” triggers a follow-up obligation to craft standards for pollution reduction that will allow it to be cleaned up. The 303(d) list is an important tool for clean water advocates to use in pressing for improved water quality.

Waters may be listed as impaired based on one or more factors, including high fecal bacteria count, turbidity, low oxygen content, and various toxic substances.

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