New Mexico Environment Department’s Surface Water Quality Bureau Begins Triennial Review Process
On November 2, 2020, the New Mexico Environment Department’s (“NMED”) Surface Water Quality Bureau (“SWQB”) issued its notice inviting public comment on NMED’s proposed amendments to the State’s standards for interstate and intrastate surface water quality, codified under 20.6.4 NMAC. NMED issued its proposed amendments in accordance with the Triennial Review process, which is directed by Section 301 of the Clean Water Act and 18.104.22.168(A) NMAC. These provisions require the State to hold public hearings for the purpose of reviewing applicable water quality standards and to propose necessary revisions to those standards at least once every three years. In the November 2, 2020 notice, NMED invited public comment on its proposed amendments to 20.6.4 NMAC found here.
As reflected in the public comment draft of the NMED’s proposed amendments to 20.6.4 NMAC, the SWQB has proposed numerous amendments to the State’s standards for interstate and intrastate surface water quality. These amendments include proposed changes to the definition section of the regulations, including introducing definitions of “climate change” and “contaminants of emerging concern.” The proposed revisions also include changes to the Review of Standards (22.214.171.124 NMAC) and Use Attainability Analysis (126.96.36.199 NMAC) provisions. The proposed changes include several amendments to designated uses. Finally, of note, the SWQB has also proposed amendments to numeric aquatic life and human health criteria of a number of constituents listed in 188.8.131.520 NMAC, including aluminum, arsenic and iron.
The public comment period on NMED’s public comment draft of its proposed amendments to 20.6.4 NMAC closes January 6, 2021. The SWQB will consider the comments in further developing the proposed amendments prior to the April 12, 2021 deadline to submit technical testimony in the hearing process before the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission (“WQCC”). Following closure of the public comment period, interested persons may submit testimony or comment through the public hearing process, as directed by the Hearing Officer’s November 9, 2019 procedural order, found here. As set forth in that procedural order, and as ordered by the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission on October 19, 2020, the public hearing on the SWQB’s proposed amendments to 20.6.4 NMAC will commence on July 13, 2021. Interested parties can keep track of the hearing process on the WQCC website by following the docket for “In the Matter of Proposed Amendments to Standards for Interstate and Intrastate Water, 20.6.4 NMAC, WQCC 20-51(R)” found here.
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