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 (non-substantive updates to Table 40 are effective on April 18, 2014). EPA approved revisions to the manganese criteria and withdrawal of iron on June 9, 2011. These revisions are reflected in Table 40.
On April 11, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved all revisions to Oregon’s toxics water quality standards. DEQ recommended these amendments to the Environmental Quality Commission at its Dec. 12, 2013 meeting in Portland. The revisions are effective on April 18, 2014 for all Clean Water Act programs.
The revisions address EPA’s Jan. 31, 2013 disapproval of 11 pesticides and selenium aquatic life criteria, and reinstate criteria for arsenic and chromium VI that were inadvertently omitted from a toxics table. In addition, the revisions consolidated all the toxics aquatic life criteria into one new table - Table 30. DEQ will address the remaining January 2013 EPA disapprovals for ammonia, copper, cadmium and aluminum in separate rulemakings. Until such time revised criteria are approved, criteria for these pollutants will reflect criteria last approved by EPA.
EPA did not take action on a number of other minor revisions related to this rulemaking. Most of these revisions became effective on Dec. 23, 2013. For these revisions, please see rulemaking documents on the agency’s Rules and Regulations web page.See EPA Action on Oregon's Aquatic Life Criteria 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.
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.