In May of this year WEPA held a public meeting to allow the public to comment on our draft Water Quality Standards (WQS’s). The only comments we received during the comment period was from the U.S. EPA. They had a few concerns regarding our proposed standards which we are now trying to resolve with the contractor we hired to help us write the standards.
In July of 2016 we were granted our Treatment in a manner similar to a state (TAS) certification. This is what allowed us to develop Water Quality Standards for our Tribal lands.
Under the Clean Water Act, Tribes can set standards for its groundwater which will become Tribal Law. The U.S. EPA can only certify the standards for surface water. Once these WQS’s are excepted by EPA they carry the same weight as the standards from the State of California.
WEPA will become the agency to safeguard our waters. This will restrict what can come into the Rancheria and what can happen to our waters on the Rancheria. When the water leaves the Rancheria, it must meet the States guidelines/standards.
As part of these WQS’s the Tribal Council has already signed a resolution decreeing what is called an “Antidegradation Policy” to hold parties liable for changing our quality of waters. Under this Policy changes to the waters of the Rancheria both ground water and surface water are restricted to minor changes. If these changes exceed the listed limits the Tribe can hold the polluter responsible. This could even cause the polluter to clean up its mess or pay a large fine.
WEPA hopes to have the next draft done soon which will again be sent to the U.S. EPA for review. Once this is done, we will hold another public meeting to make sure anyone interested can ask questions or propose changes to our standards. Once this is complete the U.S. EPA will certify our WQS’s for us to start using and enforcing.