The Triennial Standards Review (TSR) is a requirement under the federal Clean Water Act that states review their water quality standards (WQS) every three years and amend and update them if necessary. The purpose of the TSR is to ensure an opportunity for the public to comment upon the need for revisions to State WQS.
For the 2013 Triennial Standards Review (TSR), the MPCA requested comments from all parties with an interest in or information about Minnesota’s lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands and groundwater. The MPCA requested information and opinion from the public on any subject matter contained in Minn. R. chs. 7050 and 7052 that should be considered for revision. In addition, the MPCA requested public comment on topics it is considering for future revisions to state WQS. The comment period ran from November 12, 2013, through January 28, 2014.
Detailed information about the WQS topics for which the MPCA requested public comment are in the tabbed section at the bottom of this webpage. The comments received are provided below, and include a summary of the December 11, 2013, TSR public meeting:
The MPCA considered the comments received, the availability of new science, the needs of MPCA programs, and EPA mandates to prepare a list of WQS priorities for the next three years. These priorities and estimated project start dates were presented to the MPCA Citizens' Board on May 20, 2014:
Table 1. Water Quality Standards Priorities for Development 2014 to 2016
Note that the WQS priorities are divided into three priority tiers (1, 2, or 3). The tiers are intended to keep focus on the WQS projects of highest priority while MPCA staff continue moving WQS projects from the previous TSR to completion as illustrated in Figure 1 below.
Figure 1. Triennial Standards Review
Subjects for comment
For the 2013 Triennial Standards Review (TSR), the MPCA requested comments from all parties with an interest in or information about Minnesota’s lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands and groundwater. The MPCA requested information and opinion from the public on any subject matter contained in Minn. R. chs. 7050 and 7052 that should be considered for revision. In addition, the MPCA requested public comment on topics it is considering for future revisions to state WQS. The comment period for the 2013 TSR has ended.
Chapter 7050 includes provisions to protect Minnesota’s waters from pollution, including:
- A classification system of designated beneficial uses for both surface and ground waters (e.g., drinking water, aquatic life and recreation, etc.), and a listing of specifically classified water bodies.
- Numeric and narrative WQS that protect those beneficial uses.
- Nondegradation provisions.
- Provisions for the protection of wetlands.
- Methods for the determination of site-specific criteria for toxic pollutants.
- Other provisions related to the protection of surface and groundwater from point and nonpoint source pollution.
Chapter 7052 provides standards specific to surface waters in the Lake Superior Basin. Chapter 7052 establishes aquatic life, human health, and wildlife WQS and criteria for Great Lakes Initiative pollutants, nondegradation standards and implementation procedures for deriving effluent limitations from these standards and criteria.
Note that Minn. R. chs. 7050 and 7052 include language regarding the issuance of variances to state WQS. The MPCA requested comments from all parties with an interest in or information about variances to state WQS granted by the MPCA. Active variances as of September of each year are listed on the MPCA’s Water Quality Variance page.
In addition, the following topics are being considered by the MPCA as part of the 2013 TSR. The MPCA requested information, opinion, and comment from the public regarding the need for the new or revised WQS and amendments listed below and the relative priority of need for these topics.
- Revision of or additions to pollutant-specific human health-based water quality standards (WQS), employing updated human-health based WQS methods (these methods are anticipated to be adopted into Minn. R. 7050 by December 2014). The list of WQS for possible update include: any toxic pollutant listed in Minn. R. 7050.0220, 7050.0222 or 7052.0100 or any other surface water pollutant deemed a priority.
The MPCA is in the process of revising the methods it uses to develop human health-based WQS for Class 2 surface waters. These WQS protect human users from the effects of toxic pollutants associated with fish consumption and recreation, and drinking water use in surface waters that are designated Class 1. When the new methods are adopted into Minn. R. ch. 7050, anticipated by December 2014, the existing pollutant-specific human health-based WQS listed in Minn. R. chs. 7050 and 7052 will be outdated.
Further information about the updated human-health based WQS methods is available on the Amendments to the Human Health Methods for Developing Class 2 Chronic Standards page.
- Revision of recreational water quality criteria for human health protection from surface water pathogens employing 2012 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 304(a) Recreational Water Quality Criteria.
Under Minn. R. ch. 7050, Class 2 waters are protected for recreational use which includes swimming and wading. Class 7 waters (limited resource value waters) are also protected for limited recreational use (for example, swimming is not included as a recreational use of Class 7 waters).
In 2008, the MPCA replaced the recreational WQS for human health protection from surface water pathogens based on total fecal coliform with WQS based on Escherichia coli (E. coli) that are consistent with EPA’s 1986 Recreational Water Quality Criteria (RWQC); the revised WQS employed state-specific data in developing the standards and protocol for application in Class 2 and Class 7 waters statewide.
The Federal Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act of 2000 amended the Clean Water Act to require EPA to update the 1986 RWQC. The BEACH Act of 2000 also required states with coastal waters (in Minnesota, Lake Superior) to adopt WQS for pathogens or pathogen indicators (i.e., E. Coli), and to develop a coastal waters beach monitoring plan. Accordingly, the MPCA established a beach monitoring program for Lake Superior and applied EPA’s 1986 RWQC for assessment of the coastal waters of Lake Superior.
In 2012, EPA revised the RWQC as mandated by the BEACH Act of 2000. The MPCA is planning to revise the coastal waters beach monitoring plan for Lake Superior to incorporate EPA’s 2012 RWQC. In addition, the MPCA is considering revising the recreational WQS for human health protection from surface water pathogens for Class 2 and Class 7 waters statewide to be consistent with EPA’s 2012 RWQC.
Further information is available at the following websites:
- Revision of the approach for Class 1, Domestic Consumption, designations and associated WQS for groundwater and surface water for consistency with other state regulations.
Minn. R. ch. 7050 addresses drinking water use through the Class 1 Domestic Consumption designation, which applies to all groundwater and specified surface waters. The basis for the Class 1 designation and applicable WQS is found primarily in Minn. R. 7050.0221, with listings of Class 1 surface waters found in Minn. R. 7050.0470. The applicable Class 1 pollutant-specific WQS are the federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) standards incorporated by reference from 40 CFR 141, with certain exceptions.
Because the approach MPCA has used to designate Class 1 waters and apply WQS predates the federal CWA, SDWA, State Statute 103H on groundwater protection, and other relevant state regulations, the MPCA has identified opportunities for improvement to address the inconsistencies and gaps in Minn. R. chs. 7050 and 7060.
- Additions or revisions of pollutant-specific WQS for protection of aquatic life based on EPA 304(a) Ambient Water Quality Criteria or any other EPA criteria published since 2004. Specific pollutants under consideration include cadmium, copper, nonylphenol, acrolein, ammonia, carbaryl, diazinon, tributyltin and selenium (in draft).
The CWA requires states to review newly published Ambient Water Quality Criteria (AWQC) developed by EPA as part each TSR to determine if adoption into state water quality rules is needed. In accordance with this requirement, the MPCA seeks information from the public to help it determine if there are adequate, defensible data and a demonstrated need to promulgate into statewide rules updates to current WQS or to add new WQS for the pollutants referenced above.
Note that updates to the WQS for cadmium and copper, and development of new WQS for nonylphenol were selected as priorities in the 2008 TSR. A draft technical support document (TSD) was developed for each pollutant. However, other priority rule-related issues came up and these projects were set aside.
For further information, please see the following draft technical support documents:
- Aquatic Life Water Quality Standards Technical Support Document for Cadmium
- Aquatic Life Water Quality Standards Technical Support Document for Copper Biotic Ligand Model
- Aquatic Life Water Quality Standards Technical Support Document for Nonylphenol and Ethoxylates
- Revision of the Class 2 aquatic life standard for chloride.
Chloride is an environmental contaminant, with primary sources stemming from urban and agricultural runoff, and discharges of industrial and municipal wastes. Revision of the Class 2 aquatic life standard for chloride was selected as a priority in the 2008 TSR. However, because EPA did not complete development of the AWQC as anticipated, the MPCA put this project on hold. The MPCA expects that EPA will complete the AWQC for chloride in the near future, at which point review of the Class 2 aquatic life standard for chloride can proceed.
- Addition of an MPCA-derived Class 2 aquatic life WQS for nitrate.
Nitrate is a naturally occurring compound derived from the decomposition of plant-based, organic material and animal wastes, however numerous human-based sources of nitrate to the environment also exist. Nitrate can contribute to the increased growth of aquatic plants and nuisance algal blooms, but also can be toxic to aquatic organisms.
Development of a Class 2 aquatic life WQS for nitrate was identified as a priority in the 2008 TSR, and a draft technical support document (TSD) was developed for this purpose. However, because EPA is carrying out supplemental aquatic life toxicity tests for nitrate, the MPCA put this project on hold. The MPCA expects that EPA will complete the aquatic life toxicity tests for nitrate in the near future, at which point revision of the Class 2 aquatic life WQS for nitrate can proceed.
The draft technical support document for nitrate is available: Aquatic Life Water Quality Standards Technical Support Document for Nitrate
The MPCA’s report on Nitrogen in Surface water is available here: Report on nitrogen in surface water - Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
- Revision to and update of existing Class 3 (Industrial Consumption) and Class 4 (Agriculture and Wildlife) designations and associated WQS. (Note: this does not include update of existing Class 4 designations and WQS related to the identification of waters used for production of wild rice and possible modification of the existing sulfate standard for protection of wild rice, which is already a priority for revision.)
The Class 3 (Industrial Consumption) and the Class 4 (Agriculture and Wildlife) WQS listed in Minnesota Rules 7050.0223 and 7050.0224 were first adopted into rule on a statewide basis in 1967 and have remained largely unchanged since that time. The Class 3 WQS were established to protect the use of waters for general industrial purposes, industrial cooling, and materials transport. Class 4A WQS protect waters as source waters for irrigation purposes, and Class 4B WQS protect the use waters by livestock and wildlife without inhibition or injurious effects. Examination of the Class 3 and Class 4 WQS has been proposed several times in the past, and was identified as a priority in the 2008 TSR, but the project has not proceeded due to other priority rule-related issues. As noted above, this topic does not include the evaluation of the Class 4A sulfate standard to protect wild rice.
An evaluation of this topic from the University of Minnesota’s Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering is available at: University of Minnesota Class 3 and Class 4 Water Quality Standards Review
- Updates to the list of outstanding resource value waters in Minn. R. 7050.0180.
Minnesota designates some surface waters as outstanding resource value waters (ORVWs) because of their exceptional qualities. To preserve the value of these special waters, the MPCA prohibits or stringently controls the degradation of ORVWs. The last revision to ORVW designations was made in 1994 and the MPCA is considering a rulemaking effort to update its lists of ORVWs found in Minn. R. 7050.0180.
- Review of limited resource value waters (Class 7).
The MPCA will review of all listed Class 7 Limited Resource Value (LRV) waters in accordance with the provisions of 40 CFR §131.20 (a) which in part states: “… Any water body segment with water quality standards that do not include the uses specified in section 101(a)(2) of the (Clean Water) Act shall be re-examined every three years to determine if any new information has become available.”
The list of Minnesota’s surface waters that are classified as Class 7 is available by basin in Minn. R. 7050.0470
Questions regarding the scope of the TSR or technical comments or questions regarding WQS should be directed to:
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
520 Lafayette Road North
St. Paul, MN 55155-4194
Telephone: 651-276-6243 or
Questions regarding the TSR process should be directed to:
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
520 Lafayette Road North
St. Paul, MN 55155-4194
651 757-2621 or 800-657-3864 toll free
December 11, 2013 Triennial Standards Review Public Meeting
A public meeting was held on December 11, 2013, at the MPCA’s St. Paul office from 1:30 to 4:30 pm to share information about the water quality standards additions and revisions the MPCA is considering for the next triennial, and to request the public’s comments and opinion on these items as well as any part of Minn. R. chs 7050 and 7052 that the public wishes to comment upon. The meeting was webcast and recorded, and is available below:
2013 Triennial Standards Review Process
The 2013 TSR is being conducted using a revised process. The primary change is that the TSR will no longer constitute the first step of rulemaking to adopt state water quality standards additions and revisions. Instead, after the need for rules or amendments is identified through the TSR, the MPCA will begin the rulemaking process according to Minnesota’s Administrative Procedures Act. More information about the reasons for this change and the new TSR process can be obtained by viewing the PowerPoint slides used in the of the one–hour webinar hosted by the MPCA on September 4, 2013.
- PowerPoint slides: Minnesota's Water Quality Standards and the New Triennial Review Process
To receive updates about the upcoming Triennial Standards Review and water quality standards rulemaking projects, sign up for GovDelivery notices by clicking the hyperlink at the top of this page; be sure to check the box for “Water,” under the heading, “Rulemaking – active projects,” as shown in the illustration below:
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