EPA approves TMDL reports for four watersheds

With the recent approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) reports for waterways in four Kentucky watersheds, stakeholders now have the information needed to make decisions that will help improve the health of local water bodies.

The Kentucky Division of Water (DOW) received EPA approval notifications on Aug. 5 for the TMDL report for bacteria impairments in 10 stream segments in the Carr Fork Watershed in Knott County and for the TMDL report on bacteria impairments in five stream segments in the Hardwick Creek Watershed located in Powell and Estill counties.

In July, the EPA approved two other TMDL reports — one for bacteria impairments in seven segments within the Muddy Creek Watershed in Madison County and another for bacteria impairments in nine stream segments in the Cox Creek Watershed in Nelson, Bullitt and Spencer counties.

Clark Dorman, manager of the DOW Water Quality Branch, said members of his staff have spent hundreds of hours collecting and analyzing data and writing the reports.

“Developing TMDLs in a watershed begins with the collection of vast amounts of data on factors including water quality, point source discharge, precipitation, soils, geology, topography, and land use within that specific watershed,” said Dorman.

The TMDLs provide an analytical basis for planning and implementing pollution controls, and management practices, and restoration projects needed to protect water quality. They address all significant stressors that cause or threaten to cause waterbody use impairment, including:

  • point sources (e.g., sewage treatment plant discharges)
  • nonpoint sources (e.g., runoff from fields, streets, range or forest land)
  • naturally occurring sources (e.g., runoff from undisturbed lands)

“We work with our public partners to use the TMDLs as a basis for developing locally driven, comprehensive watershed restoration plans,” said Jim Roe with the DOW Watershed Management Branch. “DOW also administers funding specifically earmarked to help fund water quality improvement and pollution prevention projects.”

Roe said local public participation is critical to developing a successful restoration plan.

“Local watershed restoration plans incorporate detailed strategies and project plans based on local problems and priorities,” said Roe. “Water quality restoration is an adaptive, creative process that allows everyone to be involved and active in decisions that benefit Kentucky’s waterways.”

The Clean Water Act requires each state to periodically identify specific waters where designated uses are not being met and water quality impairments exist. The state is also required to prioritize the list of impaired waters, calculate a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) of pollutants for those waters and devise plans to improve the water quality.

“Total Maximum Daily Load” is a term used to describe the amount of pollutant a stream can receive and still meet water quality standards. Water quality standards are regulations based on federal or state law that set numeric or narrative limits on pollutants. TMDLs are required for water bodies that are determined to be impaired by a pollutant.