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PDFWAC 173-201A-320

Tier IIProtection of waters of higher quality than the standards.

(1) Whenever a water quality constituent is of a higher quality than a criterion designated for that water under this chapter, new or expanded actions within the categories identified in subsection (2) of this section that are expected to cause a measurable change in the quality of the water (see subsection (3) of this section) may not be allowed unless the department determines that the lowering of water quality is necessary and in the overriding public interest (see subsection (4) of this section).
(2) A Tier II review will only be conducted for new or expanded actions conducted under the following authorizations. Public involvement with the Tier II review will be conducted in accordance with the public involvement processes associated with these actions.
(a) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) waste discharge permits;
(b) State waste discharge permits to surface waters;
(c) Federal Clean Water Act Section 401 water quality certifications; and
(d) Other water pollution control programs authorized, implemented, or administered by the department.
(3) Definition of measurable change. To determine that a lowering of water quality is necessary and in the overriding public interest, an analysis must be conducted for new or expanded actions when the resulting action has the potential to cause a measurable change in the physical, chemical, or biological quality of a water body. Measurable changes will be determined based on an estimated change in water quality at a point outside the source area, after allowing for mixing consistent with WAC 173-201A-400(7). In the context of this regulation, a measurable change includes a:
(a) Temperature increase of 0.3°C or greater;
(b) Dissolved oxygen decrease of 0.2 mg/L or greater;
(c) Bacteria level increase of 2 CFU or MPN per 100 mL or greater;
(d) pH change of 0.1 units or greater;
(e) Turbidity increase of 0.5 NTU or greater; or
(f) Any detectable increase in the concentration of a toxic or radioactive substance.
(4) Necessary and overriding public interest determinations. Once an activity has been determined to cause a measurable lowering in water quality, then an analysis must be conducted to determine if the lowering of water quality is necessary and in the overriding public interest. Information to conduct the analysis must be provided by the applicant seeking the authorization, or by the department in developing a general permit or pollution control program, and must include:
(a) A statement of the benefits and costs of the social, economic, and environmental effects associated with the lowering of water quality. This information will be used by the department to determine if the lowering of water quality is in the overriding public interest. Examples of information that can assist in this determination include:
(i) Economic benefits such as creating or expanding employment, increasing median family income, or increasing the community tax base;
(ii) Providing or contributing to necessary social services;
(iii) The use and demonstration of innovative pollution control and management approaches that would allow a significant improvement in AKART for a particular industry or category of action;
(iv) The prevention or remediation of environmental or public health threats;
(v) The societal and economic benefits of better health protection;
(vi) The preservation of assimilative capacity for future industry and development; and
(vii) The benefits associated with high water quality for uses such as fishing, recreation, and tourism.
(b) Information that identifies and selects the best combination of site, structural, and managerial approaches that can be feasibly implemented to prevent or minimize the lowering of water quality. This information will be used by the department to determine if the lowering of water quality is necessary. Examples that may be considered as alternatives include:
(i) Pollution prevention measures (such as changes in plant processes, source reduction, and substitution with less toxic substances);
(ii) Recycle/reuse of waste by-products or production materials and fluids;
(iii) Application of water conservation methods;
(iv) Alternative or enhanced treatment technology;
(v) Improved operation and maintenance of existing treatment systems;
(vi) Seasonal or controlled discharge options to avoid critical conditions of water quality;
(vii) Establishing buffer areas with effective limits on activities;
(viii) Land application or infiltration to capture pollutants and reduce surface runoff, on-site treatment, or alternative discharge locations;
(ix) Water quality offsets as described in WAC 173-201A-450.
(5) The department retains the discretion to require that the applicant examine specific alternatives, or that additional information be provided to conduct the analysis.
(6) General permit and water pollution control programs are developed for a category of dischargers that have similar processes and pollutants. New or reissued general permits or other water pollution control programs authorized, implemented, or administered by the department will undergo an analysis under Tier II at the time the department develops and approves the general permit or program.
(a) Individual activities covered under these general permits or programs will not require a Tier II analysis.
(b) The department will describe in writing how the general permit or control program meets the antidegradation requirements of this section.
(c) The department recognizes that many water quality protection programs and their associated control technologies are in a continual state of improvement and development. As a result, information regarding the existence, effectiveness, or costs of control practices for reducing pollution and meeting the water quality standards may be incomplete. In these instances, the antidegradation requirements of this section can be considered met for general permits and programs that have a formal process to select, develop, adopt, and refine control practices for protecting water quality and meeting the intent of this section. This adaptive process must:
(i) Ensure that information is developed and used expeditiously to revise permit or program requirements;
(ii) Review and refine management and control programs in cycles not to exceed five years or the period of permit reissuance; and
(iii) Include a plan that describes how information will be obtained and used to ensure full compliance with this chapter. The plan must be developed and documented in advance of permit or program approval under this section.
(7) All authorizations under this section must still comply with the provisions of Tier I (WAC 173-201A-310).
[Statutory Authority: RCW 90.48.035 and 40 C.F.R. 131.20. WSR 19-04-007 (Order 16-07), § 173-201A-320, filed 1/23/19, effective 2/23/19. Statutory Authority: Chapters 90.48 and 90.54 RCW. WSR 03-14-129 (Order 02-14), § 173-201A-320, filed 7/1/03, effective 8/1/03.]
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