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Appendix VIII Use support Appendix VIII Use Support Methodology and Use Support Ratings Appendices A-VIII-2 Introduction to Use Support All surface waters of the state are assigned a classification appropriate to the best-intended uses of that water. Waters are assessed to determine how well they are meeting the classified or best- intended uses. The assessment results in a use support rating for the use categories that apply to that water. Use Support Categories Beginning in 2000 with the Little Tennessee River Basinwide Water Quality Plan, DWQ assesses ecosystem health and human health risk through the use of five use support categories: aquatic life, recreation, fish consumption, water supply, and shellfish harvesting. These categories are tied to the uses associated with the primary classifications applied to NC rivers and streams. Waters are Supporting if data and information used to assign a use support rating meet the criteria for that use category. If these criteria are not met, then the waters are Impaired. Waters with inconclusive data and information are Not Rated. Waters where no data or information are available to make an assessment are No Data. The table below specifies which use support categories apply to which primary classifications. A single water may have more than one use support rating corresponding to one or more of the use support categories, as shown in the following table. For many waters, a use support category will not be applicable (N/A) to the classification of that water (e.g., shellfish harvesting is only applied to Class SA waters). A full description of the classifications is available in the DWQ document titled: Classifications and Water Quality Standards Applicable to Surface Waters of North Carolina (15A NCAC 2b .0100 and .0200). Information can also be found within each basin plan and at http://h2o.enr.state.nc.us/csu/. Use Support Categories Primary Classification Ecosystem Approach Human Health Approach Aquatic Life Fish Consumption Recreation Water Supply Shellfish Harvesting C X X X N/A N/A SC X X X N/A N/A B X X X N/A N/A SB X X X N/A N/A SA X X X N/A X WS I – WS IV X X X X N/A Assessment Period Data and information are used to assess water quality and assign use support ratings using a five- year data window that ends on August 31 of the year of basinwide biological sampling. For example, if biological data are collected in a basin in 2004, then the five-year data window for A-VIII-3 use support assessments would be September 1, 1999 to August 31, 2004. There are occasionally some exceptions to this data window, especially when follow up monitoring is needed to make decisions on samples collected in the last year of the assessment period. Data and information for assessing water quality and assigning use support ratings for lakes uses a data window of October 1 to September 30. Any data collected by DWQ during the five-year data window that ends on September 30 of the year of biological sampling will be used to develop a Weight-of-Evidence approach to lakes assessment. Refer to page 16 of this appendix for more information. Assessment Units DWQ identifies waters by index numbers and assessment unit numbers (AU). The AU is used to track defined stream segments or waterbodies in the water quality assessment database, for the 303(d) Impaired waters list, and in the various tables in basin plans and other water quality documents. The AU is a subset of the DWQ index number (classification identification number). A letter attached to the end of the AU indicates that the AU is smaller than the DWQ index segment. No letter indicates that the AU and the DWQ index segment are the same. Interpretation of Data and Information It is important to understand the associated limitations and degree of uncertainty when interpreting use support ratings. Although these use support methods are based on data analysis and other information, some best professional judgment is applied during these assessments. Use support ratings are intended to provide an assessment of water quality using a five-year data window, to describe how well surface waters support their classified uses, and to document the potential stressors contributing to water quality degradation and the sources of these contributions. Use support methods continue to improve over time, and the information and technology used to make use support determinations also continue to become more accurate and comprehensive. These improvements sometimes make it difficult to make generalizations comparing water quality between basin plans. However, technology and methods improvements result in more scientifically sound use support assessments. Assessment Methodology Introduction Many types of data and information are used to determine use support ratings and to identify stressors and sources of water quality degradation. All existing data pertaining to a stream segment for each applicable use support category are entered into a use support database. Assessments and data entries may include use support ratings for each of the five use support categories, basis of assessment, stressors and potential sources, biological, chemical/physical (ambient monitoring), and lakes assessment data, fish consumption advisories from the NC Department of Health and Human Services, swimming advisories and shellfish sanitation growing area classifications from the NC Division of Environmental Health, and available land A-VIII-4 cover and land use information. The following describes the data and methodologies used to conduct use support assessments. These methods will continue to be refined as additional information and technology become available. Basis of Assessment Assessments are made on an overall basis of either monitored (M) or evaluated (E), depending on the level of information available. A monitored rating is based on the most recent five-year data window and site-specific data and is therefore treated with more confidence than an evaluated rating. Evaluated ratings are used when there are no site-specific data. Rating Basis Use Support Category Assessment Applicability* S/M AL Biological community data or ambient water quality parameters do not exceed criteria in AU during assessment period. Biological and ambient data are independently applied. S/M REC Ambient fecal coliform bacteria levels do not exceed criteria in AU or AU with DEH sites is posted with advisories for 61 days or less during assessment period. S/M SH AU is a DEH Approved shellfish growing area. I/M AL Biological community data or ambient water quality parameters exceed criteria in AU during assessment period. Biological and ambient data are independently applied. I/M REC Ambient fecal coliform bacteria levels exceeds criteria in AU or AU with DEH sites is posted with advisories for more than 61 days during assessment period. I/M FC Fish tissue data collected in AU during assessment period and basin is under mercury advice or site-specific advisory. I/M SH AU is a DEH Conditionally-Approved, Prohibited or Restricted shellfish growing area. NR/M AL Biological community is Not Rated or inconclusive, or ambient water quality parameters are inconclusive or there are less than 10 samples in AU during assessment period. Biological and ambient data are independently applied. NR/M REC Ambient fecal bacteria parameter exceeds annual screening criteria, but does not exceed assessment criteria of five samples in 30 days in AU during assessment period. NR/M FC AU does not have site-specific advisory and is not under a mercury advice or drains to areas within a mercury advice; fish tissue data available. S/E AL AU is a tributary to a S/M AU and land use is similar between AUs. S/E WS AU is classified as WS, and DEH report notes no significant closures at time of assessment. I/E FC AU is in basin under a mercury advice or drains to areas within a mercury advice and has no fish tissue data. NR/E AL AU is tributary to I/M AU, or AU is in watershed with intensive and changing land use, or other information suggests negative water quality impacts to AU. Discharger in AU has noncompliance permit violations or has failed three or more WET tests during the last two years of the assessment period. NR/E REC Discharger has noncompliance permit violations of fecal bacteria parameter during last two years of assessment period. NR/E FC AU does not have site-specific advisory and is not under a mercury advice or drains to areas within a mercury advice, or has no fish tissue data. ND AL, REC, SH No data available in AU during assessment period. A-VIII-5 Note: S/M = Supporting/Monitored I/M = Impaired/Monitored NR/M = Not Rated/Monitored S/E = Supporting/Evaluated I/E = Impaired/Evaluated NR/E = Not Rated/Evaluated ND = No Data AL = Aquatic Life REC = Recreation FC = Fish Consumption SH = Shellfish Harvesting WS = Water Supply AU = Assessment Unit WET = Whole Effluent Toxicity DEH = Division of Environmental Health * = for lakes assessments, see page 16 Supporting ratings are extrapolated up tributaries from monitored streams when there are no problematic dischargers with permit violations or changes in land use/cover. Supporting ratings may also be applied to unmonitored tributaries where there is little land disturbance (e.g., national forests and wildlife refuges, wilderness areas or state natural areas). Problem stressors or sources are not generally applied to unmonitored tributaries. Impaired ratings are not extrapolated to unmonitored tributaries. Stressors Biological and ambient samplings are useful tools to assess water quality. However, biological sampling does not typically identify the causes of impairment, and ambient sampling does not always link water quality standards to a biological response. Linking the causes of impairment and the biological response are a complex process (USEPA, 2000) that begins with an evaluation of physical, chemical or biological entities that can induce an adverse biological response. These entities are referred to as stressors. A stressor may have a measurable impact to aquatic health. Not all streams will have a primary stressor or cause of impairment. A single stressor may not be sufficient to cause impairment, but the accumulation of several stressors may result in impairment. In either case, impairment is likely to continue if the stressor or the various cumulative stressors are not addressed. Use support assessments evaluate the available information related to potential stressors impacting water quality. A stressor identification process may be initiated after a stream appears on the 303(d) list in order to address streams that are Impaired based on biological data. Intensive studies are required to summarize and evaluate potential stressors to determine if there is evidence that a particular stressor plays a substantial role in causing the biological impacts. Intensive studies consider lines of evidence that include benthic macroinvertebrate and fish community data, habitat and riparian area assessment, chemistry and toxicity data, and information on watershed history, current watershed activities and land uses, and pollutant sources. These studies result in decisions regarding the probable stressors contributing to or causing impairment. The intensity of a stressor study may be limited due to a lack of resources. In these cases, it may still be appropriate to include stressors in use support assessments, but to also note where additional information is needed in order to evaluate other stressors. Where an ambient parameter is identified as a potential concern, the parameter is noted in the DWQ database and use support summary table. Where habitat degradation is identified as a stressor, DWQ and others attempt to identify the type of habitat degradation (e.g., sedimentation, loss of woody habitat, loss of pools or riffles, channelization, lack of riparian vegetation, streambed scour and bank erosion). Habitat evaluation methods are being developed to better identify specific types of habitat degradation. A-VIII-6 Aquatic Life Category The aquatic life category is an ecosystem approach to assessing the biological integrity of all surface waters of the state. The biological community data and ambient water quality data are used in making assessments in this category. These represent the most important monitoring data for making water quality assessments in the aquatic life category. Evaluation information such as compliance and whole effluent toxicity information from NPDES dischargers, land cover, and other more anecdotal information are also used to identify potential problems and to refine assessments based on the monitoring data. The following is a description of each monitoring data type and the criteria used in assigning use support ratings. Criteria used to evaluate the other information and assign use support ratings are also described. Refer to page 14 for lakes and reservoir assessment methods as applied in the aquatic life category. Biological Data Benthic macroinvertebrate (aquatic insects) community and fish community samples are the best way to assess the biological integrity of most waterbodies. Unfortunately, these community measures cannot be applied to every stream size and are further limited by geographic region. These community measures are designed to detect current water quality and water quality changes that may be occurring in the watershed. However, they are only directly applied to the assessment unit where the sample was collected. Where recent data for both benthic macroinvertebrates and fish communities are available, both are assessed for use support ratings. When the data from multiple biological data types are gathered, each data type is assessed independently. Biological monitoring is typically assessed independent of ambient monitoring data and either may be used to assign a use support rating for an assessment unit. Benthic Macroinvertebrate Criteria Criteria have been developed to assign bioclassifications to most benthic macroinvertebrate samples based on the number of taxa present in the pollution intolerant aquatic insect groups of Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera and Trichoptera (EPTs); and the Biotic Index (BI), which summarizes tolerance data for all taxa in each sample. Because these data represent water quality conditions with a high degree of confidence, use support ratings using these data are considered monitored. If a Fair macroinvertebrate bioclassification is obtained under conditions (such as drought or flood conditions, recent spills, etc.) that may not represent normal conditions or is borderline Fair (almost Good-Fair), a second sample should be taken within 12-24 months to validate the Fair bioclassification. Such sites will be Not Rated until the second sample is obtained. Use support ratings are assigned to assessment units using benthic macroinvertebrate bioclassifications as follows. A-VIII-7 Waterbody Sample Type or Criteria Benthic Bioclassification Use Support Rating Mountain, piedmont, coastal A3 Excellent Supporting Mountain, piedmont, coastal A3 Good Supporting Swamp1 Natural Supporting Mountain, piedmont, coastal A Good-Fair Supporting Smaller than criteria but Good-Fair2 Not Impaired Supporting Swamp1 Moderate Stress Supporting Mountain, piedmont, coastal A3 Fair Impaired Swamp1 Severe Stress Impaired Mountain, piedmont, coastal A3 Poor Impaired Criteria not appropriate to assign bioclassification Not Rated Not Rated 1 Swamp streams for benthos sampling are defined as streams in the coastal plain that have no visible flow for a part of the year, but do have flow during the February to early March benthic index period. 2 This designation may be used for flowing waters that are too small to be assigned a bioclassification (less than three square miles drainage area), but have a Good-Fair or higher bioclassification using the standard qualitative and EPT criteria. 3 Coastal A streams are those located in the coastal plain that have flow year round and are wadeable. Fish Community Criteria The North Carolina Index of Biotic Integrity (NCIBI) is a method for assessing a stream’s biological integrity by examining the structure and health of its fish community. The NCIBI incorporates information about species richness and composition, indicator species, trophic function, abundance and condition, and reproductive function. Because these data represent water quality conditions with a high degree of confidence, use support ratings using these data are considered monitored. Use support ratings are assigned to assessment units using the NCIBI bioclassifications as follows: NCIBI Use Support Rating Excellent Supporting Good Supporting Good-Fair Supporting Fair Impaired Poor Impaired The NCIBI was recently revised (NCDENR, 2001), and the bioclassifications and criteria have also been recalibrated against regional reference site data (NCDENR, 2000a, 2000b and 2001a). NCIBI criteria are applicable only to wadeable streams in the following river basins: Broad, Catawba, Savannah, Yadkin-Pee Dee, Cape Fear, Neuse, Roanoke, Tar-Pamlico, French Broad, Hiwassee, Little Tennessee, New and Watauga. Additionally, the NCIBI criteria are only applicable to streams in the piedmont portion of the Cape Fear, Neuse, Roanoke and Tar-Pamlico River basins. The definition of "piedmont" for these four river basins is based upon a map of North Carolina watersheds (Fels, 1997). Specifically: A-VIII-8 • In the Cape Fear River basin -- all waters except for those draining the Sandhills in Moore, Lee and Harnett counties, and the entire basin upstream of Lillington, NC. • In the Neuse River basin -- the entire basin above Smithfield and Wilson, except for the south and southwest portions of Johnston County and eastern two-thirds of Wilson County. • In the Roanoke River basin -- the entire basin in North Carolina upstream of Roanoke Rapids, NC and a small area between Roanoke Rapids and Halifax, NC. • In the Tar-Pamlico River basin -- the entire basin above Rocky Mount, except for the lower southeastern one-half of Halifax County and the extreme eastern portion of Nash County. NCIBI criteria have not been developed for: • Streams in the Broad, Catawba, Yadkin-Pee Dee, Savannah, French Broad, Hiwassee, Little Tennessee, New and Watauga River basins which are characterized as wadeable first to third order streams with small watersheds, naturally low fish species diversity, coldwater temperatures, and high gradient plunge-pool flows. Such streams are typically thought of as "Southern Appalachian Trout Streams". • Wadeable streams in the Sandhills ecoregion of the Cape Fear, Lumber and Yadkin-Pee Dee River basins. • Wadeable streams and swamps in the coastal plain region of the Cape Fear, Chowan, Lumber, Neuse, Pasquotank, Roanoke, Tar-Pamlico and White Oak River basins. • All nonwadeable and large streams and rivers throughout the state. Ambient Water Quality Monitoring Criteria Chemical/physical water quality data are collected through the DWQ Ambient Monitoring Program statewide and NPDES discharger coalitions in some basins. All samples collected (usually monthly) during the five-year assessment period are used to assign a use support rating. Ambient water quality data are not direct measures of biological integrity, but the chemical/physical parameters collected can provide an indication of conditions that may be impacting aquatic life. Because these data represent water quality conditions with a high degree of confidence, use support ratings assigned using these data are considered monitored. Where both ambient data and biological data are available, each data type is assessed independently. The parameters used to assess water quality in the aquatic life category include dissolved oxygen, pH, chlorophyll a and turbidity. Criteria for assigning use support ratings to assessment units with ambient water quality data of a minimum of ten samples are as follows: Ratings Criteria Rating Numerical standard exceeded in ≤10% of samples Supporting Numerical standard exceeded in >10% of samples Impaired Less than 10 samples collected Not Rated DO and pH standard exceeded in swamp streams Not Rated Some standards are written with more specific criteria than others and these specific criteria are used to assess use support. For example, the DO standard for Class C waters is a daily average of 5 mg/l and an instantaneous value of 4 mg/l. Because DWQ does not collect daily DO levels A-VIII-9 at the ambient stations, the instantaneous value is used for assessment criteria. In areas with continous monitoring, the daily average of 5 mg/l will also be assessed. In addition, pH has a standard of not less than 6 and not greater than 9; each level is assessed. To assess the fecal coliform bacteria standard, five samples must be collected within a 30 day period (see Recreation Category for more information). Multiple Monitoring Sites There are assessment units with more than one type of monitoring data. When the data from multiple biological data types are gathered, each data type is assessed independently. Biological monitoring is typically assessed independent of ambient monitoring data and either may be used to assign a use support rating for an assessment unit. Monitoring data are always used over the evaluation information; however, evaluation information can be used to lengthen or shorten monitored assessment units and to assign use support ratings on an evaluated basis to non- monitored assessment units. NPDES Wastewater Whole Effluent Toxicity (WET) Information Whole Effluent Toxicity (WET) tests are required for all major NPDES discharge permit holders, as well as those minor NPDES dischargers with complex effluent (defined as not being of 100 percent domestic waste). WET tests are evaluated to determine if the discharge could be having negative water quality impacts. If a stream with a WET test facility has not been sampled for instream chronic toxicity, biological community data or has no ambient water quality data, and that facility has failed three or more WET tests in the last two years of the assessment period, the assessment unit is Not Rated. Because this information is not a direct measure of water quality and the confidence is not as high as for monitoring data, this use support rating is considered evaluated rather than monitored. Problems associated with WET test failures are addressed through NPDES permits. NPDES Discharger Daily Monitoring Report (DMR) Information NPDES effluent data monthly averages of water quality parameters are screened for the last two years of the assessment period. If facilities exceed the effluent limits by 20 percent for two or more months during two consecutive quarters, or have chronic exceedances of permit limits for four or more months during two consecutive quarters, then the assessment unit is Not Rated if no biological or ambient monitoring data are available. Because discharger effluent data is not a direct measure of water quality and data confidence is not as high as for stream monitoring data, the assessment units are considered evaluated rather than monitored. If biological or ambient data are available, that data will be used to develop a use support rating for appropriate stream segments. Fish Consumption Category The fish consumption category is a human health approach to assess whether humans can safely consume fish from a waterbody. This category is applied to all waters of the state. The use support rating is assigned using fish consumption advisories or advice as issued by the NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The fish consumption category is different from other categories in that assessments are based on the existence of a DHHS fish A-VIII-10 consumption advice or advisory at the time of use support assessment. The advice and advisories are based on DHHS epidemiological studies and on DWQ fish tissue data, so a fish tissue monitoring site will constitute a monitored assessment unit (AU) and all other AUs will be evaluated. DWQ fish tissue data are used to inform DHHS of potential fish tissue toxicity. DHHS is responsible for proclaiming a fish tissue advisory for any waterbody. Fish tissue monitoring data are not used directly for assigning a use support rating in this category. If a limited site-specific fish consumption advisory or a no consumption advisory is posted at the time of assessment, the water is Impaired. If there are no site-specific advisories posted or the stream is not in a basin where mercury advice is applied, then the assessment unit will be Not Rated in this category. The DHHS has developed regional fish consumption advice (all waters south and east of I-85) for certain fish species shown to have elevated levels of mercury in their tissue. DWQ applies the DHHS fish consumption advice for mercury on a basinwide scale rather than an AU scale in recognition that fish move up and downstream regardless of the presence of I-85. All AUs draining below or intersecting I-85 are Impaired in the fish consumption category. AUs with monitoring data are considered Impaired/Monitored, and AUs with no monitoring data are considered Impaired/Evaluated. When a DHHS site-specific advisory is in place for a parameter other than mercury, the assessment is based on that advisory and the mercury advice will take a lower ranking in the assessment. Therefore, when a site-specific advisory is in place in a basin with a mercury advice and the AU has fish tissue monitoring data, the AU will be considered Impaired/Monitored for the specific parameter, rather than Impaired/Evaluated for mercury. Basins under the mercury advice are the Cape Fear, Chowan, Lumber, Neuse, Pasquotank, Roanoke, White Oak and Yadkin-Pee Dee. All waters in these basins are Impaired in the fish consumption category, even when there is a site-specific advisory. All waters are also considered Monitored or Evaluated, dependent upon the availability of monitoring data. Only a small portion of the Catawba River basin is intersected by I-85 (lower Mecklenberg, Union and Gaston counties). Due to the presence of dams that impede fish travel throughout the Catawba River basin, only those waters draining to and entering the mainstem Catawba below I- 85 and are not impeded by dams are considered Impaired/Evaluated. Basins not under the mercury advice are the Broad, French Broad, Hiwassee, Little Tennessee, New, Savannah and Watauga. All waters in these basins are Not Rated in the fish consumption category if there is no site-specific advisory; waters are Impaired if there is a site-specific advisory. All waters are also considered Monitored or Evaluated, dependent upon the availability of monitoring data. Recreation Category This human health related category evaluates waters for the support of primary recreation activities such as swimming, water-skiing, skin diving, and similar uses usually involving human body contact with water where such activities take place in an organized manner or on a frequent basis. Waters of the state designated for these uses are classified as Class B, SB and SA. This category also evaluates other waters used for secondary recreation activities such as wading, boating, and other uses not involving human body contact with water, and activities involving A-VIII-11 human body contact with water where such activities take place on an infrequent, unorganized or incidental basis. Waters of the state designated for these uses are classified as Class C, SC and WS. The use support ratings applied to this category are currently based on the North Carolina fecal coliform bacteria water quality standard where ambient monitoring data are available or on the duration of local or state health agencies posted swimming advisories. Use support ratings for the recreation category may be based on other bacteriological indicators and standards in the future. DWQ conducts monthly ambient water quality monitoring that includes fecal coliform bacteria testing. The Division of Environmental Health (DEH) tests coastal recreation waters (beaches) for bacteria levels to assess the relative safety of these waters for swimming. If an area has elevated bacteria levels, health officials will advise that people not swim in the area by posting a swimming advisory and by notifying the local media and county health department. The North Carolina fecal coliform bacteria standard for freshwater is: 1) not to exceed the geometric mean of 200 colonies per 100 ml of at least five samples over a 30-day period; and 2) not to exceed 400 colonies per 100 ml in more than 20 percent of the samples during the same period. The AU being assessed for the five-year data window is Supporting in the recreation category if neither number (1) nor (2) of the standard are exceeded. The AU being assessed is Impaired in the recreation category if either number (1) or (2) is exceeded. Waters without sufficient fecal coliform bacteria data (five samples within 30 days) are Not Rated, and waters with no data are noted as having No Data. Assessing the water quality standard requires significant sampling efforts beyond the monthly ambient monitoring sampling and must include at least five samples over a 30-day period. Decades of monitoring have demonstrated that bacteria concentrations may fluctuate widely in surface waters over a period of time. Thus, multiple samples over a 30-day period are needed to evaluate waters against the North Carolina water quality standard for recreational use support. Waters classified as Class SA, SB and B are targeted for this intensive sampling effort due to the greater potential for human body contact. Waters with beach monitoring sites will be Impaired if the area is posted with an advisory for greater than 61 days of the assessment period. Waters with beach monitoring sites with advisories posted less than 61 days will be Supporting. Other information can be used to Not Rate unmonitored waters. DWQ Ambient Monitoring Fecal Coliform Bacteria Screening Criteria As with other information sources, all available information and data are evaluated for the recreation category using the assessment period. However, DWQ conducts an annual screening of DWQ ambient fecal coliform bacteria data to assess the need for additional monitoring or immediate action by local or state health agencies to protect public health. Each March, DWQ staff will review bacteria data collections from ambient monitoring stations statewide for the previous sampling year. Locations with annual geometric means greater than 200 colonies per 100 ml, or when more than 20 percent of the samples are greater than 400 A-VIII-12 colonies per 100 ml, are identified for potential follow-up monitoring conducted five times within 30 days as specified by the state fecal coliform bacteria standard. If bacteria concentrations exceed either portion of the state standard, the data are sent to DEH and the local county health director to determine the need for posting swimming advisories. DWQ regional offices will also be notified. Due to limited resources and the higher risk to human health, primary recreation waters (Class B, SB and SA) will be given monitoring priority for an additional five times within 30 days sampling. Follow-up water quality sampling for Class C waters will be performed as resources permit. Any waters on the 303(d) list of Impaired waters for fecal coliform will receive a low priority for additional monitoring because these waters will be further assessed for TMDL development. DWQ attempts to determine if there are any swimming areas monitored by state, county or local health departments or by DEH. Each January, DEH, county or local health departments are asked to list those waters which were posted with swimming advisories in the previous year. Shellfish Harvesting Use Support The shellfish harvesting use support category is a human health approach to assess whether shellfish can be commercially harvested and is therefore applied only to Class SA waters. The following data sources are used to assign use support ratings for shellfish waters. Division of Environmental Health (DEH) Shellfish Sanitation Surveys DEH is required to classify all shellfish growing areas as to their suitability for shellfish harvesting. Estuarine waters are delineated according to DEH shellfish management areas (e.g., Outer Banks, Area H-5) which include Class SA, SB and SC waters. DEH samples growing areas regularly and reevaluates the areas by conducting shellfish sanitation shoreline surveys every three years to determine if their classification is still applicable. DEH classifications may be changed after the most recent sanitary survey. Classifications are based on DEH bacteria sampling, locations of pollution sources, and the availability of the shellfish resource. Growing waters are classified as follows. DEH Classification DEH Criteria Approved (APP) Fecal Coliform Standard for Systematic Random Sampling: The median fecal coliform Most Probable Number (MPN) or the geometric mean MPN of the water shall not exceed 14 per 100 milliliters (ml), and the estimated 90th percentile shall not exceed an MPN of 43 MPN per 100 ml for a 5-tube decimal dilution test. Fecal Coliform Standard for Adverse Pollution Conditions Sampling: The median fecal coliform or geometric mean MPN of the water shall not exceed 14 per 100 ml, and not more than 10 percent of the samples shall exceed 43 MPN per 100 ml for a 5-tube decimal dilution test. Conditionally Approved-Open (CAO) Sanitary Survey indicates an area can meet approved area criteria for a reasonable period of time, and the pollutant event is known and predictable and can be managed by a plan. These areas tend to be open more frequently than closed. A-VIII-13 Conditionally Approved-Closed Sanitary Survey indicates an area can meet approved area criteria for a reasonable period of time, and the pollutant event is known and predictable and can be managed by a plan. These areas tend to be closed more frequently than open. (CAC) Restricted Sanitary Survey indicates limited degree of pollution, and the area is not contaminated to the extent that consumption of shellfish could be hazardous after controlled depuration or relaying. (RES) Prohibited No Sanitary Survey; point source discharges; marinas; data do not meet criteria for Approved, Conditionally Approved or Restricted Classification. (PRO) Assigning Use Support Ratings to Shellfish Harvesting Waters (Class SA) DWQ use support ratings may be assigned to separate segments within DEH management areas. In assessing use support, the DEH classifications and management strategies are only applicable to DWQ Class SA (shellfish harvesting) waters. It is important to note that DEH classifies all actual and potential growing areas (which includes all saltwater and brackish water areas) for their suitability for shellfish harvesting. This will result in a difference of acreage between DEH areas classified as CAC, PRO and RES, and DWQ waters rated as Impaired. For example, if DEH classifies a 20-acre area CAC, but only 10 acres are Class SA, only those 10 acres of Class SA waters are rated as Impaired. The DEH "Closed" polygon coverage includes CAC, RES and PRO classifications, and it is not currently possible to separate out the PRO from the RES areas. Therefore, these areas are a combined polygon coverage, and DWQ rates these waters as Impaired. Sources of fecal coliform bacteria are more difficult to separate out for Class SA areas. DEH describes the potential sources in the sanitary surveys, but they do not describe specific areas affected by these sources. Therefore, in the past, DEH identified the same sources for all Class SA sections of an entire management area (e.g., urban runoff and septic systems). Until a better way to pinpoint sources is developed, this information will continue to be used. A point source discharge is only listed as a potential source when NPDES permit limits are exceeded. DWQ and DEH are developing the database and expertise necessary to assess shellfish harvesting frequency of closures. In the interim, DWQ has been identifying the frequency of closures in Class SA waters using an interim methodology (see below) based on existing databases and GIS shapefiles. There will be changes in reported acreages in future assessments using the permanent methods and tools that result from this project. Past Interim Frequency of Closure-Based Assessment Methodology The interim method was used for the 2001 White Oak, 2002 Neuse and 2003 Lumber River basin use support assessments. Shellfish harvesting use support ratings for Class SA waters using the interim methodology are summarized below. A-VIII-14 Percent of Time Closed within Basin Data Window DEH Growing Area Classification DWQ Use Support Rating N/A Approved* Supporting Supporting Closed ≤10% of data window Portion of CAO closed ≤10% of data window Closed >10% of the data window Portion of CAO closed >10% of data window Impaired N/A CAC and PRO/RES** Impaired * Approved waters are closed only during extreme meteorological events (hurricanes). ** CAC and P/R waters are rarely opened to shellfish harvesting. For CAO areas, DWQ worked with DEH to determine the number of days and acreages that CAO Class SA waters were closed to shellfish harvesting during the assessment period. For each growing area with CAO Class SA waters, DEH and DWQ defined subareas within the CAO area that were opened and closed at the same time. The number of days these CAO areas were closed was determined using DEH proclamation summary sheets and the original proclamations. The number of days that APP areas in the growing area were closed due to preemptive closures because of named storms was not counted. For example, all waters in growing area E-9 were preemptively closed for Hurricane Fran on September 5, 1996. APP waters were reopened September 20, 1996. Nelson Bay (CAO) was reopened September 30, 1996. This area was considered closed for ten days after the APP waters were reopened. Current Assessment Methodology Use support assessment is now conducted such that only the DEH classification will be used to assign a use support rating. By definition, CAO areas are areas that DEH has determined do not, or likely do not, meet water quality standards and these areas will be rated Impaired, along with CAC and PRO/RES areas. Only APP areas will be rated Supporting. Growing areas that have been reclassified by DEH during the assessment period from a lower classification to APP will be rated Supporting. Areas that are reclassified from APP to any other classification during the assessment period will be rated Impaired. Over the next few years, DWQ, DEH, Division of Coastal Management (DCM) and Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) will be engaged in developing a database with georeferenced (GIS) shellfish harvesting areas. The new database and GIS tools will be valuable for the above agencies to continue to work together to better serve the public. Using the new database with georeferenced areas and monitoring sites, DEH will be able to report the number of days each rea was closed excluding closures related to large or named storms. a Water Supply Use Support This human health related use support category is used to assess all Class WS waters for the ability of water suppliers to provide potable drinking water. Water quality standards established for drinking water apply to water delivered to consumers after it has been treated to remove potential contaminants that may pose risks to human health. Ambient standards established by states under the Clean Water Act are not intended to ensure that water is drinkable without A-VIII-15 treatment. Modern water treatment technologies are required to purify raw water to meet drinking water standards as established by the North Carolina Division of Environmental Health. Water supply use support is assessed by DWQ using information from the seven DEH regional water treatment plant consultant staff. Each January, the DEH staff consultants are asked to submit a spreadsheet listing closures and water intake switch-overs for all water treatment plants in their region. This spreadsheet describes the length and time of the event, contact information, and the reason for the closure or switch. The spreadsheets are reviewed by DWQ staff to determine if any closures/switches were due to water quality concerns. Those closures/switches due to water quantity problems and reservoir turnovers are not considered for use support. The frequency and duration of closures/switches due to water quality concerns are considered when assessing use support. Using these criteria, North Carolina’s surface water supplies are currently rated Supporting on an Evaluated basis. Specific criteria for rating waters Impaired are to be determined on a case-by-case basis. Use of Outside Data DWQ actively solicits outside data and information in the year before biological sampling in a particular basin. The solicitation allows approximately 90 days for data to be submitted. Data from sources outside DWQ are screened for data quality and quantity. If data are of sufficient quality and quantity, they may be incorporated into use support assessments. A minimum of ten samples for more than a one-year period is needed to be considered for use support assessments. The way the solicited data are used depends on the degree of quality assurance and quality control of the collection and analysis of the data as detailed in the 303(d) report and shown in the table below. Level 1 data can be use with the same confidence as DWQ data to determine use support ratings. Level 2 or Level 3 data may be used to help identify causes of pollution and stressors. They may also be used to limit the extrapolation of use support ratings up or down a stream segment from a DWQ monitoring location. Where outside data indicate a potential problem, DWQ evaluates the existing DWQ biological and ambient monitoring site locations for adjustment as appropriate. Criteria Levels for Use of Outside Data in Use Support Assessments Criteria Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Monitoring frequency of at least 10 samples for more than a one-year period Yes Yes/No No Monitoring locations appropriately sited and mapped Yes Yes No State certified laboratory used for analysis according to 15A NCAC 2B .0103 Yes Yes/No No Quality assurance plan available describing sample collection and handling Yes, rigorous scrutiny Yes/No No A-VIII-16 Lakes and Reservoir Use Assessment Like streams, lakes are classified for a variety of uses. All lakes monitored as part of North Carolina’s Ambient Lakes Monitoring Program carry the Class C (aquatic life) classification, and most are classified Class B and SB (recreation) and WS-I through WS-V (water supply). The surface water quality numeric standard specifically associated with recreation is fecal coliform. For water supplies, there are 29 numeric standards based on consumption of water and fish. Narrative standards for Class B and Class WS waters include aesthetics such as no odors and no untreated wastes. There are other numeric standards that also apply to lakes for the protection of aquatic life and human health. These standards also apply to all other waters of the state and are listed under the Class C rules. One of the major problems associated with lakes and reservoirs is increasing eutrophication related to nutrient inputs. Several water quality parameters help to describe the level of eutrophication. For nutrient enrichment, one of the main causes of impacts to lakes and reservoirs, a more holistic or weight of evidence approach is necessary since nutrient impacts are not always reflected by the parameters sampled. For instance, some lakes have taste and odor problems associated with particular algal species, yet these lakes do not have chlorophyll a concentrations above 40 µg/l frequently enough to impair them based on the standard. In addition, each reservoir possesses unique traits (watershed area, volume, depth, retention time, etc.) that dramatically influence its water quality, but that cannot be evaluated through standards comparisons. In such waterbodies, aquatic life may be Impaired even though a particular indicator is below the standard. Where exceedances of surface water quality standards are not sufficient to evaluate a lake or reservoir, the weight of evidence approach can take into consideration indicators and parameters not in the standards to allow a more sound and robust determination of water quality. The weight of evidence approach uses the following sources of information to determine the eutrophication (nutrient enrichment) level as a means of assessing lake use support in the aquatic life category: • Quantitative water quality parameters - dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll a, pH, etc. • Algal bloom reports • Fish kill reports • Hydrologic and hydraulic characteristics – watershed size, lake volume, retention time, volume loss, etc. • Third party reports – citizens, water treatment plant operators, state agencies, etc. ¾ Taste and odor ¾ Sheens ¾ Odd colors ¾ Other aesthetic and safety considerations In implementing the weight of evidence approach for eutrophication, more consideration is given to parameters that have water quality standards (see table). Each parameter is assessed for percent exceedance of the state standard. Parameters with sufficient (ten or more observations), quality-assured observations are compared to surface water quality standards. When standards A-VIII-17 are exceeded in more than 10 percent of the assessment period, portions or all of the waterbody are rated Impaired. However, in many cases, the standards based approach is incapable of characterizing the overall health of a reservoir. The eutrophication-related parameters and water quality indicators without numeric standards are reviewed based on interpretation of the narrative standards in 15A NCAC 2B .0211(2) and (3). A modification to lake use assessment is the evaluation and rating of a lake or reservoir by assessment units (AUs). Each lake or reservoir may have one or more AU based on the classification segments (DWQ index numbers). Each sampling date is considered one sample. Multiple sampling locations within one AU are considered one sample. A minimum of ten samples is needed to assess use support for any AU. Each AU with documented problems (sufficient data, ambient data above standards, and supporting public data) will be rated as Impaired while the other portions are rated as Supporting or Not Rated. The following table lists the information considered during a lake/reservoir use assessment, as well as the criteria used to evaluate that information. References Fels, J. 1997. North Carolina Watersheds Map. North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension Service. Raleigh, NC. North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR). 2000a. Fish Community Metric Re-Calibration and Biocriteria Development for the Inner Piedmont, Foothills, and Eastern Mountains (Broad, Catawba, Savannah, and Yadkin River Basins). September 22, 2000. Biological Assessment Unit. Environmental Sciences Branch. Water Quality Section. Division of Water Quality. Raleigh, NC. ____. 2000b. Fish Community Metric Re-Calibration and Biocriteria Development for the Outer Piedmont (Cape Fear, Neuse, Roanoke and Tar River Basins). October 17, 2000. Ibid. ____. 2001a. Standard Operating Procedure. Biological Monitoring. Stream Fish Community Assessment and Fish Tissue. Biological Assessment Unit. Environmental Sciences Branch. Water Quality Section. Division of Water Quality. Raleigh, NC. ____. 2001b. Fish Community Metric Re-Calibration and Biocriteria Development for the Western and Northern Mountains (French Broad, Hiwassee, Little Tennessee, New and Watauga River Basins). January 05, 2001. Ibid. USEPA. 2000. Stressor Identification Guidance Document. EPA/822/B-00/025. Office of Water. Washington, DC. A-VIII-18 Lake/Reservoir Weight of Evidence Use Assessment for Aquatic Life Category Assessment Type Criteria EUTROPHICATION Water Quality Standards (a minimum of 10 samples is required for use support assessment) Chl a Above standard in >10% of samples. DO Below or above standard in >10% of samples. pH Below or above standard in >10% of samples. Turbidity Above standard in >10% of samples. % Total Dissolved Gases Above standard in >10% of samples. Minor and infrequent excursions of temperature standards due to anthropogenic activity. No impairment of species evident. Temperature Metals (excluding copper, iron and zinc) Above standard in >10% of samples. Other Data % Saturation DO >10% of samples above >120% Algae Blooms during 2 or more sampling events in 1 year with historic blooms. Fish Kills related to eutrophication. Chemically/ For algal or macrophyte control - either chemicals or biologically by fish, etc. Biologically Treated Documented sheens, discoloration, etc. - written complaint and follow-up by a state agency. Aesthetics Complaints Trophic Status Index (TSI) Increase of 2 trophic levels from one 5-year period to next. Historic DWQ Data Conclusions from other reports and previous use support assessments. AGPT Algal Growth Potential Test ≥5 mg/L Limiting access to public ramps, docks, swimming areas; reducing access by fish and other aquatic life to habitat; clogging intakes. Macrophytes Taste and Odor Public complaints; Potential based on algal spp. Sediments Clogging intakes - dredging program necessary. A-VIII-19 A-VIII-20