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North Carolina Water Quality
Date Posted: May 24, 2000Service contaminants staff are taking part in the North Carolina Triennial Review Advisory Committee (TRAC). The TRAC was formed to guide revisions to the State’s water quality standards and includes representatives from state and federal government, academia, the regulated community (municipal dischargers and consulting firms), and nongovernmental environmental organizations.
A significant proposal that has come from this effort would confer additional water quality protection for federally-listed threatened and endangered species. The new rule proposes all habitats for federally-listed aquatic species be either:
1) designated as an Outstanding Resource Water (ORW), which in North Carolina requires the water body have excellent water quality in addition to outstanding ecological resource values; or,
2) become subject to a site-specific water quality management plan (for areas important for listed species that do not have excellent water quality and therefore do not meet the state’s ORW requirements).
The site-specific management plan option specifies that the State can develop and implement plans to reduce point and nonpoint source pollution to the extent necessary to restore water quality. The goal would be to restore the water body back to excellent water quality for eventual ORW designation. Because most of the habitats supporting listed species in North Carolina do not currently meet ORW standards, the new rule would afford a degree of protection not available today. The municipality and industry representatives on the TRAC are supportive of the proposal because it does not employ a "one-size-fits-all" solution to protecting water quality in habitat for listed species (i.e., no automatic restrictions; they’d have to be developed on a case-by-case basis contingent upon the needs of the water body in question).