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EPA Proposes Revision to Federal Requirements for Wastewater Disposal in Florida.

Business Editors & Environmental Writers

ATLANTA--(BUSINESS WIRE)--July 7, 2000

The United States Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it has proposed revisions to the Federal requirements for deep well injection of municipal wastewater to further protect underground sources of drinking water in South Florida and continue protection of Florida's coastal environment. The proposed revisions, announced today in the Federal Register, establish an alternate method for owners and/or operators of municipal wells in Florida to comply with Underground Injection Control (UIC) regulations. The proposed rule pertains only to certain counties in Florida largely because their underground features are capable of accepting large quantities of domestic wastewater through deep injection wells.

The proposed rule would only be for existing municipal wells that inject domestic waste in the following counties: Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Collier, Dade, Flagler, Glades, Hendry, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lee, Manatee, Martin, Monroe, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pinellas, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Sarasota, and Volusia.

John H. Hankinson, Jr., EPA Regional Administrator in Atlanta, said, "Through this revision, we are proposing a viable solution to a long-standing problem concerning disposal of more than 400 million gallons of wastewater each day in Florida. This proposed action is a big step forward in maximizing protection of Florida's precious coastal ecosystems from Tampa Bay to the coral reefs while ensuring that drinking water sources are protected."

Through the proposed rule, EPA seeks to give owners or operators of existing municipal (public and private) deep injection wells an appropriate method of complying with UIC regulations while ensuring the Underground Sources of Drinking Water (USDW) are protected. The proposed rule would allow fluid to move into the USDW, but would place more stringent requirements on facilities to ensure that the USDW is not endangered. The facilities would have to demonstrate that the injection would not contaminate any USDW in a manner that would cause it to exceed primary drinking water regulations and other health-based standards.

Specifically, EPA is proposing and seeking public comment on two options: (1) Advanced Wastewater Treatment with Non-Endangerment Demonstration

Requires all facilities to provide treatment of wastewater by advanced wastewater treatment and high-level disinfection and demonstrate that the injected fluids would not cause USDW to exceed the national primary drinking water regulations and other health-based standards. (2) In-depth Hydrogeologic Demonstration and Advanced Treatment, as Necessary

Requires demonstration that the injection would not cause the USDW to exceed the national primary drinking water regulations and other health-based standards. Failure to accomplish this demonstration would require treatment of the injectate to such a level that the fluids would not cause exceedances in the USDW. This option is designed to provide the same level of public health protection as the preceding option, but the level of treatment required would be determined by an in-depth study on a case-by-case basis.

Although both options require demonstrations from the owners or operators of the affected facilities, the demonstration required under Option 1 could be less extensive than the hydrogeologic demonstration required under Option 2.

Under current UIC regulations, the owners or operators of existing municipal injection wells that have exhibited movement of fluids into the USDW, regardless of fluid quality, must cease deep injection as the only legal remedy to compliance. Some wells are currently experiencing upward movement of fluids. Ceasing municipal injection would force these facilities to seek an alternative disposal option. Alternative options, such as surface water disposal, are exceedingly restrictive due to the need to protect Florida's fragile streams, estuaries, wetlands, rivers and ocean beaches. By focusing on the quality of the wastewater disposed and specific effects on the aquifers, the rule would allow existing deep municipal injection wells to continue operation while underground sources of drinking water are protected. Recent sampling has indicated that fluids currently entering the USDW as a result of municipal injection do not exceed any drinking water or other health based standards.

EPA will hold four public hearings to solicit comments on the proposed rule and will accept written comments for 60 days from date of publication in the Federal Register. Two hearings will be held on Tuesday, August 22, 2000 in Tampa at the Travelodge, 820 Busch Boulevard from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. and from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Also, two hearings will be held on Thursday, August 24, 2000 at the Sheraton West Palm Beach Hotel, 630 Clearwater Park Road in West Palm Beach, FL from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. and from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Written comments should be addressed to Nancy H. Marsh, U.S. EPA Region 4, Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center, 61 Forsyth Street, SW, Atlanta, GA 30303. The proposed rule and other supporting information is available from the EPA Region 4 Web site at www.epa.gov/region4/uic/uicindex.htm.
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Jul 7, 2000
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