EGLE announces draft state E. coli TMDL

CAFO permits to be consistent with new TMDL

A picture of E. coli
E. coli, some strains are harmless others can cause gastroenteritis and other serious diseases | Picture by Wikimedia Commons.

Recently, the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE formerly DEQ) had issued a public notice for a public comment period that closes on July 29, 2019 on a statewide E. coli TMDL

This TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) is particularly for E. coli and does not include other pollutants.

Why E. coli?

The presence of E. coli indicates the possible presence of other pathogens that can cause gastroenteritis and other serious diseases.  According to EGLE, routine testing has shown E. coli levels in many areas of the state are above the water quality standard (WQS).  These levels increase the risk of illness upon contact or incidental ingestion of the water. Given the extent of this problem and the multitude of potential sources, a statewide approach will be more effective at addressing this issue. To learn more, please visit the E. coli in Surface Waters website.

What does the proposed standard say?

The proposed standard is a body contact standard, not a drinking water standard. Basically, the proposed state standard is 130 E. coli per 1000mL for total body contact waters and 1000 E. coli for partial body contact waters. The standard only applies to the water bodies that have a completed TMDL, but allows for easy expansion of the TMDL to new areas if a problem is found. The implementation of nonpoint source activities to reach the goal of attaining the WQS is largely voluntary, unless the source is found to be contributing significantly to a water quality impairment, or is illegal. TMDL implementation may include additional monitoring and source identification work.

Why does it matter to farmers?

If a farm is a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) or has a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, then their permit will become consistent with the TMDL.  The permits will be adjusted as NPDES permits and/or CAFO permits expire. The TMDL contains no new regulations for non-CAFO farms, however no one has the right to cause exceedances of the water quality standard.

For more information, view this helpful video . You can also visit EGLE’s website. For assistance with manure management on your farm you can contact Sarah Fronczak or Erica Rogers with Michigan State University Extension.

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