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July 18, 2016

NPDES Permit Renewal

The publicly owned wastewater treatment facility for Rochelle discharges treated wastewater to the Kyte River. This is legally allowable under the blanket of a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit and the permitting process is administered by the Illinois EPA. A NPDES permit specifies all of the conditions a wastewater facility must meet to discharge treated waste to a public water body. Rochelle is meeting all the conditions of the current NPDES permit. This permit must be renewed every 5 years and currently is up for renewal.

The process for renewing a permit starts with the municipality submitting an application outlining the operating data over the previous three years. The Illinois EPA reviews the application then issues a draft permit and is posted online for public comment for 30 days. After the 30 days if all interested parties agree to the conditions, they will issue a final draft for the wastewater facility to operate under.

Some key differences on this draft permit compared to the previous permit is the addition of a capacity management operations and maintenance plan followed by implementation. Submittal of a phosphorous optimization plan and implementation, a phosphorous feasibility study and more restrictive ammonia discharge limits. Meeting these new regulations will cost the treatment works time and money.

Nutrients in the waterways is a big debate in the Midwest down to the gulf of Mexico due to the negative impacts on the streams, rivers and eventually the Gulf. The new phosphorous regulations proposed on this draft I perceive as a precursor to a numeric discharge limit that would necessitate a treatment plant modification with project costs likely in the millions. The proposed plans on the current draft permit are unwarranted in my opinion since the Kyte River is not on a list of impaired streams issued by the Illinois EPA.

I anticipate the draft permit will be posted online July 15, 2016 at http://www.epa.illinois.gov/public-notices/npdes-notices/index.