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Water Quality Program

Current EPA Approved Assessment

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the marine Water Quality Assessment 305(b) report and 303(d) list on December 21, 2012. This is the current water quality assessment and 303(d) list of impaired waterbodies for the state of Washington, including updated assessments for marine waters.

The water quality assessment fulfills the state's obligation to submit a 2010 integrated report to meet the Clean Water Act requirements of sections 305(b) and 303(d).

View the current Assessment

You can view the listed water bodies for both water quality and contaminated sediment data by using the:

Map Tool

Key Issues Related to The 2012 EPA-Approved Assessment

The 2012 EPA-approved water quality assessment includes assessment of new data for marine waters, and specific changes that resulted from the public comment period. It also includes changes in Category 5 listings to Category 4A where a total maximum daily load (TMDL) was approved since the last listing cycle.

A key issue related to this marine assessment was whether Ecology should list all Washington State waters on the 303(d) list for pH due to impairments from ocean acidification. Ecology conducted a review of all data and studies, but was not able to substantiate impairment to Washington’s coastal waters for ocean acidification based on credible data. However, Ecology’s review of recent studies did result in a decision that there was enough credible information to list Puget Sound waters in Category 2 (waters of concern) for potential impacts to fish and shellfish habitat from human activities. This includes conditions that make the waters more vulnerable, such as climate change, urbanization, and ocean acidification. Concurrently, Washington’s Governor established a Blue Ribbon Panel of science and policy experts to address ocean acidification issues, especially as they relate to the health and protection of shellfish. The work of the Blue Ribbon Panel resulted in the Governor’s Executive Order 12-07, which included several recommendations to address the effects of ocean acidification on Washington’s shellfish resources and other marine organisms. Information on the Governor’s direction on ocean acidification efforts can be found on Ecology’s website at www.ecy.wa.gov/water/marine/oceanacidification.html.

As part of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel recommendations, Ecology’s Director sent a formal request to the Environmental Protection Agency, on December 24, 2012, asking that they begin an assessment of water quality criteria relevant to ocean acidification. EPA Acting Assistant Administrator Nancy Stoner responded on April 19, 2013, noting that EPA plans to establish a technical workgroup to evaluate data and research regarding water quality parameters most relevant for understanding and addressing ocean acidification and its causes.

Water Quality Process

Starting with this water quality assessment Ecology went to a rotating system for completing the assessment. This assessment, approved by EPA in 2012, focuses on marine waters. The next cycle will focus on freshwater. The focus will continue to alternate between marine and freshwater cycles. The primary reason for moving to this process is due to the volume of new data and the time required for organizing, assessing, and reviewing the affected listings.

The current water quality assessment and 303(d) list is based on the state water quality standards (Chapter 173-201A WAC, 2006 version) and sediment management standards (Chapter 173-204 WAC) approved by EPA. The methods for assessing the data and information are based on these standards and described in the 2006 version of Ecology’s Water Quality Program Policy 1-11, which is available by request.

Water Quality Program Policy 1-11 was updated in 2012, and will be used for the next assessment cycle, which focuses on the state’s freshwaters, Further information on the current Policy 1-11 is available on Ecology’s website at www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/303d/policy1-11.html.

Public Review

  • A public review period was held for the draft Water Quality Assessment from June 16 - August 16, 2011.
  • Public workshops were held in Lacey on July 11, 2011, and in Seattle on July 19, 2011.
  • The responsiveness summary shows each substantive comment submitted during the public comment period, and Ecology’s response. The summary is categorized by the commenter’s name.
    • A more detailed response was provided to the Center for Biological Diversity regarding their request to list all coastal waters in Washington as impaired due to ocean acidification.

Call for Data

  • A public “call for data” for marine water quality information was held from August 5 - October 15, 2009.
  • Public workshops on the use of the environmental database to submit data were held in Lacey on August 13, 2009 and in Seattle on August 20, 2009.

Data Compilation and Assessment

  • Assessed water bodies were placed into one of five categories based on method outlined in Program Policy 1-11, Chapter 1, Assessment of Water Quality for the Clean Water Act Sections 303(d) and 305(b) Integrated Report.
  • Data used in the water quality assessment were selected according to methods outlined in Program Policy 1-11, Chapter 2, Ensuring Credible Data for Water Quality Management.

Most of the data used in the Assessment are housed in Ecology's EIM database. We also received data from other sources.

Submittal to EPA

  • The Department of Ecology formally submitted the marine Water Quality Assessment list to the EPA on December 28, 2011. EPA subsequently requested additional information before they could complete the formal review and approval of the Assessment. On June 8, 2012 Ecology submitted all additional documentation.
  • As part of the submittal, Ecology is required to submit a schedule and prioritization for the establishment of TMDLs for waters listed in Category 5.

EPA Approval

  • The marine Water Quality Assessment was approved by EPA on December 21, 2012.

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Last updated January 2016