Water Quality Standards
Water Quality Standards for Toxic Pollutants
Water quality standards are the foundation of the water quality-based control program mandated by the Clean Water Act. Water Quality Standards define the goals for surface waters in Oregon by designating its uses, setting criteria to protect those uses and establishing provisions to protect water quality from pollutants.
DEQ is responsible for establishing water quality criteria for toxic
pollutants to protect both aquatic life and human health. These criteria are
established to protect surface water for aquatic life use and to allow
Oregonians to consume fish and shellfish and to use state waters for
drinking water supply without adverse health effects. DEQ develops its water
quality criteria based on EPA recommended criteria.
Human Health and Aquatic Life Criteria Tables
Toxics Standards Rule (OAR 340-041-0033)
On June 1, 2010, EPA disapproved the majority of the human health criteria adopted by the EQC in May 2004. EPA concluded that the criteria values were based on a fish consumption rate that was too low (17.5 grams/day) to protect many fish consumers in Oregon. After an extensive review of the fish consumption rate, DEQ revised the human health toxics criteria based on a higher per capita fish consumption rate of 175 grams/day. These criteria are now incorporated into Table 40 and are effective under state and federal law for Clean Water Act programs. Table 40 criteria became effective following EQC adoption on June 16, 2011, and EPA approval on Oct. 17, 2011. EPA approved revisions to the manganese criteria and withdrawal of iron on June 9, 2011. These revisions are reflected in Table 40.
EPA Takes Action on Oregon's Aquatic Life Criteria
On January 31, 2013, EPA took action on Oregon’s new or revised aquatic life toxics criteria submitted in 2004. These criteria are developed to protect aquatic species such as fish, shellfish, and aquatic insects. The aquatic life toxics criteria for each pollutant are typically comprised of four values: acute and chronic values for freshwater, and acute and chronic values for saltwater protection.
EPA approved 38 criteria associated with 14 toxic pollutants and disapproved 45 criteria values associated with 16 toxic pollutants (11 pesticides, ammonia, cadmium, copper, selenium, and aluminum). EPA disapproved the freshwater acute criterion for cadmium based on findings in the National Marine Fisheries Service’s August 2012 Biological Opinion. EPA disapproved the ammonia criteria because new toxicity data showed that the criteria were not protective of mollusks. EPA also disapproved criteria associated with 14 other pollutants, including 11 pesticides, copper, selenium and aluminum, due to inconsistencies associated with EPA’s nationally recommended criteria.
The criteria approved by EPA are now federally effective for Clean Water Act programs. When a standard submitted to EPA by the state is disapproved by EPA, the previously effective standard remains in effect for federal Clean Water Act purposes (i.e. criteria in Table 20). For a list of currently effective criteria, see Tables 20, 33A, and 33B above.
EPA Clean Water Act 303(c) determinations on Oregon's new and revised Aquatic Life Toxic Criteria
Enclosure 1: Aquatic Life Criteria Submitted by Oregon in July 2004
Enclosure 2: Supplemental Technical Support Document
Enclosure 3: Response to Supplemental Comments
Enclosure 4: Aquatic Life Criteria in Effect for Clean Water Act Purposes
DEQ has initiated a new rulemaking to correct a number of errors related to the toxics water quality standards regulations. Some of these errors are related to EPA’s action on the aquatic life criteria described above, while other errors and clarifications are related to the human health criteria for toxics. See the Corrections and Clarifications to Toxics Water Quality Standards Rulemaking website for more information.
Calculator for Freshwater Hardness-Dependent Metals Criteria
Recommendations for Analysis and Implementation of Specific Toxic Pollutants
Below is a list of memos that describe analytical methods for specific pollutants, including associated implementation and monitoring considerations. DEQ developed these memos to provide guidance to DEQ staff and other interested members of the public in response to analytical questions that have been raised on specific water quality toxics criteria. Additional memos may be posted here as other questions arise. Note that the Quantitation Limits for NPDES Permitting IMD referenced in the memos is not yet final. Once final, a link to that guidance document will be provided. In the interim, the most current quantitation limits for toxic pollutants may be found in the NPDES Permit Template document.
Department of Environmental Quality
Oregon Health Authority
Washington Department of Ecology
US Environmental Protection Agency
Please contact Andrea Matzke at Oregon DEQ, 503-229-5384 or by email for additional information.
For more information on DEQ's Water Quality Division and its programs, see our contact page.