What are
Total Maximum Daily Loads?

The Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) is a regulatory policy that the US EPA introduced in conjunction with Phase II Storm Water Permits Program to set and control limits on daily pollution in our area waterbodies. TMDL requires that states set a cap and monitor the amount of pollution allowed in listed bodies of water, such as the Cuyahoga River. TMDL would require "point" sources, such as industrial plants in the Cuyahoga Valley, to find a solution to lower discharges in order to be in "attainment" of the cap. TMDL also requires that communities in the watershed develop a plan to address "nonpoint" sources, such as the sediment from construction sites or the witches brew of pollutants that wash off city streets into storm sewers and then into lakes, rivers and streams. The regulation calls on all stakeholders in the regionin other words, citizens and businesses alikewho would benefit from cleaner water to work toward a solution.

How will the EPA regulations impact stormwater management for the Cuyahoga and other rivers?

The Ohio EPA is in the process of creating a TMDL for the Lower Cuyahoga Riverthe last 50 miles before the river empties into Lake Erie. After its second stakeholder meeting on May 22, 2001, the agency prepared a computer model and assembled the final TMDL information before preparing a draft report in September, 2002.

The criteria used to determine a TMDL can be found in the US EPA report, but in brief, to determine a TMDL for a waterbody of complexity such as the Lower Cuyahoga River, the Ohio EPA will measure the number and type of (pollution) sources, size and characteristics of the waterbody (i.e bathymetry, tides, physical complexity), the extent of nonpoint or other historical contributions, and the number of jurisdictions involved.

What are the critical factors that will affect a TMDL in the Cuyahoga River watershed?

The Lower Cuyahoga River is no longer the incendiary sewer it was in the 1970s. Mostly the change was due to the Clean Water Act of 1972 which led to millions of dollars invested in water treatment plants and the elimination of conventional pollutionmunicipal sewage, oil, grease, ammonia and industrial dischargeswhich caused visible water problems in the river and Lake Erie. However, toxic substances are the invisible pollution threat, these include: toxic metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium, pesticides and chlorinated substances such as PCBs which are known tumescents in fish populations and create clear dangers to humans in and around the water.

What can I do?

If you are interested in learning more about the history, clean-up work and remaining environmental threats faced by the Lower Cuyahoga River, read The Cuyahoga: Our crooked river of city and country.

The Ohio EPA is writing its final draft of the TMDL report for the lower Cuyahoga River and will accept public comments on the Total Maximum Daily Loads of the Middle and Upper Cuyahoga River in order to determine if the watershed is in attainment of the CWA. The lower river study focuses on three impaired subwatersheds of the river that appear on the Ohio 1998 and 2003 CWA 303(d) list.

Attend the Ohio EPA stakeholders meetings at the Happy Days Visitor Center in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, for the Lower Cuyahoga River TMDL project with your ideas and vision for improving accessibility, safety, livability, and recreational opportunities along the river. If you cannot attend, but would like to participate in the planning process, Click to submit comments online or mail to: Bill Zawiski, Ohio EPA, Northeast District Office, 2110 East Aurora Rd., Twinsburg, OH 44087 or

What regulations and work has been done to this point on stormwater management?

Back in 2000, the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency [NOACA]the planning body for the Cuyahoga Bioregionreleased its Clean Water 2000: The 208 Water Quality Management Plan for Northeast Ohio to ensure that public investments in sewers, wastewater treatment plants, and other programs are well planned and effectiveand that conflicts between local jurisdictions are avoided (for example, you dont want two cities extending sewer lines to serve the same area).

The plan made a number of recommendations in order to achieve a regional plan of managing water resources and development in watershed areas, such as: the Ohio EPA should allow local officials to give streams special protection under water quality regulations. For example, permits often allow a stream to be polluted up to its theoretical assimilative capacity (based on the assumption that streams can handle a certain amount of pollution without showing signs of degradation).

But the plan recommends that local officials be able to request that Ohio EPA set aside up to 20 percent of a streams assimilative capacity. This would give high quality streams an additional regulatory cushion and could reduce the amount of development allowed in a watershed.

Ongoing concerns about storm water runoff prompted the USEPA to implement the Phase II Storm Water Permits Program. Phase II will require communities in urban areas such as Greater Cleveland to prepare a plan detailing how they will improve storm water management for implementation by 2007.

In response, NOACA organized its Regional Storm Water Task Force. Under this program, most communities in the NOACA region will develop a model plan to address construction site run-off, post-construction run-off, illicit discharges, good housekeeping, public education and involvement. To learn more visit the NOACA Web site.



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Cuyahoga Bioregion
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Copyright 2002-2003

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