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The United States Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, issued final rules to help reduce water pollution from construction sites. The new regulation, which takes effect in February 2010, and will be phased in over four years, will significantly improve the quality of water across the United States.

Construction activities like clearing, excavating and grading significantly disturb soil and sediment. If that soil is not managed properly it can easily be washed off of the construction site during storms and pollute nearby bodies.

Pollutants discharged from construction sites include sediment, turbidity and nutrients. All of these pollutants are important contributors to water quality impairment. Sediment, turbidity, and nutrients degrade aquatic ecosystem health, drinking water supplies, and surface water clarity. Sediment deposition reduces water depth in lakes, reservoirs, and navigational channels, increasing the need for dredging.

The EPA final rule requires construction site owners and operators that disturb one or more acres to use best management practices to ensure that soil disturbed during construction activity does not pollute nearby water bodies. In addition, owners and operators of sites that impact ten or more acres will be required to monitor discharges and ensure they comply with specific limits on discharges to minimize the impact on nearby water bodies. This is the first time that EPA has imposed national monitoring requirements and enforceable numeric limitations on construction site stormwater discharges.

Soil and sediment runoff is one the leading causes of water quality problems in the United States and is a problem in many other countries, especially in the developing world.

For its part, the United States is committed to taking action to reduce water pollution and improving water quality.

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