The three Commissioners of the Texas Commission
on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), appointed by Governor
Perry, will decide June 30 whether to adopt
revisions to the state’s water quality standards
for streams and lakes.
Some of the revisions proposed
by the staff – over objections
from the public – would weaken
protections from bacteria pollution and undermine
efforts to keep or make Texas water bodies clean
enough for swimming, boating, wading, canoeing,
kayaking, and other recreational activities.
need to act NOW to oppose these revisions to the
standards for bacteria pollution. The most troublesome revisions would:
Redefine “contact recreation” into
different categories of recreation and set
weaker clean water standards for EACH of the
Increase the levels of bacteria allowed in
water bodies used for recreation, posing a greater
risk of illness for people recreating in those
streams and lakes;
Eliminate requirements for clean-up plans
for over 60 streams currently considered “impaired” (polluted).
The result of these changes is that the water
quality standards for bacterial pollution would
be weakened for almost 300 water bodies in Texas,
and many of those streams could become more and
more polluted as more wastes are put into those
Send a message NOW to the three TCEQ
Commissioners telling them to maintain – not
weaken – water quality standards for bacterial
pollution in Texas rivers, lakes, and streams.
A copy of your message will be sent to Governor
Perry and U.S. EPA.
Under the federal Clean Water Act the Texas Commission
on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) adopts water quality
standards for Texas lakes, rivers, and streams
(“surface water”), subject to approval
by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
TCEQ is required to periodically review these surface
water quality standards and, as necessary, adopt
revisions. TCEQ staff completed its latest review
last year and in January the staff proposed significant
weakening changes to the existing standards for
The three TCEQ commissioners
who govern the agency approved publication of the
proposals for public review and comment. Almost
1500 people commented in opposition to the weakening
changes to the bacteria pollution standards.
TCEQ, however, made no substantive changes to the
proposals in response to public comment, and the
staff is now asking the TCEQ commissioners to approve
the weakened standards for submittal to EPA.
commissioners, all of whom have been appointed
by Governor Perry, will act on this matter at the
June 30 meeting of the commission.
and levels of bacteria in the water may pose
risks to the health of people recreating in or
on the water. A large number of “stream
segments” in Texas are currently classified
as “impaired” (polluted) as a result
of bacteria levels. What is the TCEQ staff’s
Why, it’s to weaken the current
standards, of course, so that as if by magic these
streams are no longer classified as “impaired!”
include creating new categories of “contact recreation” and
setting less protective bacterial levels for
streams in those categories, increasing the level
of bacterial pollution allowed in recreational
streams, and increasing the number of water samples
required to classify a stream as polluted with
The upshot is that, if these changes
are adopted, clean-up plans for these streams
will no longer be required and people will be
at greater risk of illness from bacterial pollution
when enjoying water-based recreation in Texas.
The Sierra Club asked Texans in February to comment
in opposition to the TCEQ staff proposal to weaken
bacteria pollution standards, and there was overwhelming
response in opposition to the revisions.
staff has chosen to ignore that opposition, and
so now the issue must be taken directly to the
three TCEQ commissioners.
If the commissioners
fail to act in the public interest, the fight will
go on to pressure EPA not to approve the weakening
of the bacteria standards.
note: the weakening of the bacteria standards
is only part of an extensive set of revised water
quality standards to be considered by the TCEQ
commissioners on June 30. Standards for many other
pollutants are being revised. Some of the other
revisions are appropriate; some are not. But the
biggest controversy and the largest problem with
the proposed revisions are the weakening of the