Special Report No. 76-03: A Summary of Receiving Water Dissolved Oxygen Conditions Below Pulp and Paper Mill Locations

The advent of the EPA-NPDES effluent permit system, with its general emphasis on effluent limitations stated to be attainable by use of currently available technology, has tended to draw attention away from actual water quality conditions as a basis for devising specific effluent limitations. Similarly, inadequate attention to trends in measured water quality has made more difficult the assessment of both the benefits of, and rate of progress in, achieving improved water quality. High among the recent recommendations of the National Commission on Water Quality was a call for an "ongoing national assessment of the quality of the nation's waters . . . . . to determine progress toward water quality goals and objectives." Consisting of data obtained for river systems on which over 80 mills are located, the report showed that substantial dissolved oxygen improvements occurred between 1969 and 1974. These were attributable to the commissioning of a large number of waste water management facilities whose construction was undertaken to satisfy state implementation plans stemming from the 1966 Clean Water Restoration Act. Examination of 223 station months of critical low-flow period data showed that in 82 percent of the cases, dissolved oxygen levels met or exceeded water quality standards in force in 1974. The next few years should witness even more emphasis on such water quality measurement efforts as (a) 1972 FWPCA section 208 area-wide planning is intensified to determine where additional individual effluent limitations should be imposed to meet dissolved oxygen standards, and (b) National Commission on Water Quality-recommended assessments of the general effectiveness of 1972-type effluent limitations are undertaken to determine whether 1983-type, technology-related limitations can be justified. It would therefore be highly appropriate and beneficial for this industry to intensify its organized measurement of such key water quality parameters as dissolved oxygen content in its receiving waters. Only through such documentation efforts will our industry be able to position itself to play a significant role in shaping future water quality management policies.