Water Quality Standards
In September 2007 the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe became the first tribe in Region 2 (NY, NJ, and Puerto Rico) to implement EPA approved water quality standards. Utilizing Clean Water Act authority, the tribe is enabled to administer the various sections of the act to manage ambient water quality, non-point source pollutants, construction activities, and direct discharges to waters of the reservation. The purpose of the standards is to protect the Tribe’s unique designated uses of surface and groundwater for use by tribal members and future generations.
The standards were initially reviewed by the Water Quality Standards Review Committee. The Standards will be reviewed and revised when necessary by this committee. The committee is comprised of representatives from tribal operations—such as the Environment Division, Infrastructure and Planning, Public Works—and others from the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (the Tribe’s Canadian counterpart). Membership is open to the public. To become a part of the committee send requests to Tony David, Program Manager of Water Resource.
The Tribe has identified the designated uses that are to be protected by the standards. Once Designated Uses are proclaimed for a particular water body they cannot be removed to show compliance. The task for the tribe is to work towards continued attainment of these uses, tailor management specific to protect these uses, and work towards increasing water quality through standards implementation. The Designated Uses are as follows:
- Primary contact recreation and ceremonial use
- Secondary contact recreation
- Domestic, municipal water supply
- Agricultural or farm water supply
- Cold water fish use
- Warm water fish use
- Fish consumption
- Medicinal plant collection
The standards are comprised of numeric and narrative water quality criteria. The criteria cover the areas of General Criteria (taste, odor, oil and grease, turbidity, etc.), Toxic Substances (such as polychlorinated biphenyls), Biological Criteria, Wildlife Criteria, and Wetlands. To view the full standards click on the link at the bottom of the page.
The level of protection is linked to the classification of water bodies based on uses and conditions—for example the St. Lawrence River is classified as a Class A river. The St. Regis and Raquette Rivers are classified as Class B rivers. The definitions are stated below:
A source of water supply for drinking, culinary or food processing purposes, primary and secondary contact recreation; and ceremonial use; and fishing. The waters shall be suitable for fish, shellfish and wildlife propagation and survival. This classification may be given to those waters that, if subjected to approved treatment equal to coagulation, sedimentation, filtration and disinfection, with additional treatment if necessary to reduce naturally present impurities, meet or will meet US Environmental Protection Agency drinking water standards and are or will be considered safe and satisfactory for drinking water purposes. The St. Lawrence River is a Class A water body.
These waters shall be suitable for primary and secondary contact recreation; ceremonial use; fish, shellfish and wildlife propagation and survival, and fishing.
The standards enhance the sovereignty of the Tribe by clearly articulating criteria designed to protect the water uses of tribal members and having these criteria federally enforceable. The standards are used to evaluate discharge permits on and off the reservation. They are also used to mitigate the impact of construction activities, protect wetlands for medicinal plant habitat and fish and wildlife protection. Funds to carry out the monitoring, analysis, and enforcement come from congressional appropriations to administer the Clean Water Act (sections 104 (b)(3), 106 and 319). Additional funds come from the Tribe’s General Fund, US Fish and Wildlife Service and other sources.