TMDLs for Bacterial Impairment of Shellfish Waters: An Analysis of Options for Coastal North Carolina
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In North Carolina, more than 100,000 acres of shellfish waters have been closed to shellfishing, many since the Clean Water Act was put in place in 1972. These waters are considered impaired because of levels of fecal coliform bacteria in excess of a set water quality standard. By law, the state must develop a TMDL, or total maximum daily load, for each impaired water body. In North Carolina, only one TMDL for fecal coliform in shellfish waters has been developed in the State, and it has not been implemented. North Carolina does not offer any guidelines for implementing these TMDLs. The purpose of this project was to use case study TMDLs for nonpoint sources of fecal coliform in shellfish waters to see how they have been implemented and what North Carolina could learn from this. Land use was analyzed for coastal North Carolina counties, and the counties were categorized based on those land uses as forest, agriculture, or developed. Two case study TMDLs were selected for each category. After reading each case study, the TMDL contact for the state was interviewed about implementation of the case study and general guidelines for implementation in the state. Though some of these case studies were approved as early as 2004, none have been implemented. In addition, each state had different methods for dealing with TMDL implementation. Other means of improving water quality before TMDL development were also investigated. These included different types of best management practices, action by stakeholders, and watershed management plans. Any of these could be used to prevent water quality impairment or to improve degraded water quality. Actions can be taken on state and local levels to improve water quality in closed shellfish waters in North Carolina. Locally, sources of fecal coliform should be identified so appropriate best management practices can be selected and implemented. At the state level, requiring TMDL implementation with a specific timeline would increase the probability that water quality will improve as a result of the TMDL process.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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