Last Thursday, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) convened a stakeholder meeting to discuss how it plans to ensure compliance with the temperature criteria in the Texas Surface Water Quality Standards through the wastewater discharge permitting process. The updated “implementation procedures” shared by TCEQ at the meeting, when finalized, could result in TCEQ adding permit conditions to existing wastewater discharge permits.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and delegated state agencies regulate industrial wastewater discharges. In Texas, the TCEQ maintains state water quality by implementing the Texas Surface Water Quality Standards, including thermal (temperature) limitations, through issuance of wastewater discharge permits under a program called the Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (TPDES).

In 2010, EPA began objecting to TCEQ’s issuance of TPDES permits that contained thermal limits in excess of applicable thermal criteria. EPA ultimately agreed to withhold its objections in exchange for TCEQ agreeing to develop screening procedures for thermal limits in TPDES permits, and to include a TPDES permit condition requiring permittees to submit plans for characterizing thermal plumes from discharges. TCEQ has included such a condition in wastewater discharge permits, and permittees have been filing plume characterization studies, but permittees have generally been unaware of what would come next regarding wastewater permitting consequences.

At last Thursday’s meeting, TCEQ shared an updated draft of the procedures it will use to address the temperature criteria in the Texas Surface Water Quality Standards in the permitting process. The updates reflect TCEQ’s responses to EPA concerns with an earlier draft of the procedures. TCEQ announced that it plans to formally publish the updated procedures for public comment on August 31, hold a follow-up stakeholder meeting in early October, and send a final draft to EPA in late October, and then implement the procedures thereafter – contingent on the timing and substance of EPA feedback.

Stay tuned for more updates.