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Anacostia Riverkeeper, Inc. v. Wheeler

ELR Citation: 49 ELR 20135
Nos. 16-cv-1651 (CRC), (D.D.C., 08/12/2019) (Cooper, J.)

A district court vacated TMDLs that were established by the District of Columbia for E. Coli bacteria in portions of the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers and approved by EPA in 2014. Environmental groups challenged EPA's approval, arguing the Agency failed to set true maximum daily loads of E. Coli discharge into the District's waters as required by the Clean Water Act (CWA). The court found that EPA violated the plain text of the CWA by approving TMDLs that did not establish daily maximum discharge limits. The groups also argued the Agency violated the CWA by approving TMDLs that failed to achieve the single sample value and narrative criteria in the District's water quality standards. The court found that the Agency properly concluded the CWA permitted the District to include the single sample value in its standards but to explicitly discount it as an applicable standard; but also found that its reasoning that achievement of numeric criteria sufficed to achieve the narrative criteria was flawed because the TMDLs must satisfy each independent criterion established by the District, whether narrative or numeric. It therefore vacated the TMDLs, but stayed the vacatur for one year to allow the District to develop new TMDLs or EPA to revisit its regulations.