2015 Wisconsin Act 205 modifies the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) multi-discharger variance program to meet the new federal requirements. Act 205 creates a new procedure for when variances must be reviewed. This includes a three-year review standard and a highest attainable review. Under the new law, every three years, DNR must review the water quality standards and variances to water quality standards including approvals under the statewide phosphorus variance. If DNR determines after the review that the water quality standard is attainable, and the variance is not needed, then DNR must modify the variance when the discharger’s permit is reissued or modified.
In addition, Act 205 includes a provision that implements a five-year review of statewide phosphorus variance. Every five years, DNR is required to review the interim effluent limitations under the statewide phosphorus variance to determine whether they are consistent with the highest attainable condition for the point sources regulated under the statewide phosphorus variance. If a point source is regulated under the statewide phosphorus variance, DNR is required to review the applicable interim effluent limitations both at the initial approval and for each permit term. The review is to determine that the interim effluent limitations are consistent with the highest attainable condition for the point source. If from this review DNR decides that different effluent limitations are attainable, those limitations will be identified in any reissued permit.
The changes under Act 205 will ensure Wisconsin complies with the new guidance issued by the Environmental Protection Agency relating to the statewide variances.