Wyoming Nutrient Work Group Update and Documents for Review

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Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality

Wyoming Nutrient Work Group Update and Documents for Review

With the assistance of multiple partners, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) continues to make progress on addressing nutrient pollution in Wyoming’s surface waters. Efforts in 2019 focused on harmful cyanobacterial blooms (HCBs), the Boysen Reservoir Nutrient Initiative, and nutrient criteria. Details on these and other efforts are described below.

Documents For Review

2019 Efforts

Boysen Nutrient Initiative

  • Nutrient Monitoring at USGS Sites: DEQ continued to fund monthly nutrient monitoring at United States Geological Survey (USGS) sites on the three major tributaries (Wind River, Fivemile Creek, and Muddy Creek) and Wind River downstream from Boysen Dam to better understand sources of nutrients in the watershed as well as development of numeric nutrient criteria.
  • Initiative Goals and Objectives: DEQ has been working with conservation districts in the watershed to solidify near term goals and objectives for the initiative. As currently drafted, a nonpoint source work group would focus on developing (1) a sampling and analysis plan to inform watershed nutrient reduction efforts and (2) a watershed plan to reduce nutrients from nonpoint sources. A point source group would focus on developing discharger specific plans to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus, and a science group would focus on identifying concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus and corresponding reductions in these nutrients that would prevent harmful densities of cyanobacteria for drinking water and recreational uses of the reservoir.
  • Watershed Coordinator Position: DEQ has been working with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to secure funding for a joint, 2-year contract position to help facilitate the planning phase of the initiative. The position would (1) help compile background data and information; (2) convene stakeholders and facilitate discussions to accomplish goals and objectives; (3) assist with monitoring; (4) assist with nonpoint source watershed planning; and (5) work with point sources to identify ways to reduce nutrient contributions. DEQ’s portion of the funding for the position is contingent upon approval by the legislature.
  • Water Research Program Proposal: DEQ worked with researchers at the University of Wyoming to develop a Water Research Program Proposal to (1) create a Wyoming-specific calibration of cyanobacteria cell density estimates derived via satellite imagery;(2) determine whether environmental conditions can be used to predict HCB occurrence using satellite imagery; (3) determine nutrient thresholds that would prevent unsafe densities of cyanobacteria; and (4) conduct preliminary analysis of differences in cyanobacteria community composition. If funding is approved by the legislature during the 2020 session, the project will begin in July 2020.
  • Point Sources: DEQ continues to incorporate nutrient monitoring requirements into permits for point sources regulated under the Wyoming Point Source Discharge Elimination System (WYPDES) Program in the watershed

 Harmful Cyanobacterial/Algal Blooms

  • Water Forum Presentation: In March 2019, DEQ’s Michael Thomas gave an overview of Wyoming’s harmful cyanobacterial (HCB) bloom program at the Wyoming Water Forum, hosted by the State Engineer’s Office.
  • Action Plan Updates: DEQ worked with partners to update the Wyoming Harmful Algal Bloom Action Plan (Action Plan) and standard operating procedures (SOPs) for cyanobacteria and cyanotoxin sample collection.
  • New Website, Advisory Map and Listserv: DEQ worked with partners to develop a new website for harmful cyanobacterial blooms: wyohcbs.org as well as a web map for displaying past and present recreational use advisories. Members of the public can also sign up for a listserv at wyohcbs.org to receive updates regarding HCB advisories in Wyoming.
  • Press Releases: In June 2019, DEQ, Wyoming Department of Health, and the Wyoming Livestock Board put out a press release notifying the public to avoid and report cyanobacterial blooms. In August 2019, due to a high volume of inquiries regarding HCBs, DEQ, Wyoming Department of Health, and the Wyoming Livestock Board put out a second press release with additional information on HCBs
  • Advisories: The Wyoming Department of Health issued recreational use advisories at 16 reservoirs and worked with water management agencies to post signage. Eight of the blooms were reported by the public and the remainder were identified using satellite imagery from the Cyanobacteria Assessment Network (CyAN). Data associated with the blooms, including cyanobacteria cell densities, dominant taxa, as well as cyanotoxin concentrations are available on the Wyoming HCB Advisory web map. DEQ and partners have been exploring the use of permanent HCB signs for lakes and reservoirs with recurring cyanobacterial blooms.
  • Interstate Technology Regulatory Council Work Group: DEQ’s Michael Thomas has been participating in the Interstate Technology Regulatory Council’s (ITRC) Strategies for Preventing and Managing Harmful Cyanobacterial Blooms work group. The group is compiling resources to assist in preventing, managing, and remediating harmful cyanobacterial blooms.
  • 2020 Fishing Regulations: The Wyoming Game and Fish Department worked with DEQ to include information about HCBs in the 2020 Fishing Regulations (see page 32).
  • Public Water Supplies: DEQ continues to coordinate with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure that public water supplies are notified should an HCB occur in a source water. EPA’s Drinking Water Response Strategy is available on the resources page at wyohcbs.org. None of the three main cyanotoxins (total microcystin, cylindrospermopsin, and anatoxin-a) were detected in treated drinking water collected from public water supplies (Cheyenne, Sheridan, Evanston, Cody, Green River, Rock Springs, Casper, Downer Neighborhood, F.E. Warren Air Force Base) during 2019. The public water supplies were required to monitor twice a month for four consecutive months between 2018 and 2020 under the fourth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 4).

Numeric and Narrative Nutrient Criteria

  • Wyoming Basin Lakes Draft Criteria: In 2019, DEQ updated the analyses and technical support document for numeric nutrient criteria for lakes and reservoirs in south-central Wyoming (Wyoming Basin) to address feedback received from three external peer reviewers. The document is now undergoing internal review. After any additional revisions are made, the document will be shared with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) for feedback. DEQ will address USEPA’s feedback and share the analysis and results with the Wyoming Nutrient Work Group.
  • Data Collection Efforts: As identified in the 2019 Lake/Reservoir Nutrient Monitoring Sampling and Analysis Plan, WDEQ’s Surface Water Monitoring Program collected nutrient and related data at 23 reservoirs. The primary focus was reservoirs in southeast Wyoming and reservoirs throughout the state that are used as public water supplies or are heavily used for swimming where data were lacking. These data will be used for development of numeric nutrient criteria as well as prioritizing waterbodies for nutrient reduction efforts.
  • Narrative Assessment Methods: DEQ continues to work on developing more detailed methods to determine whether Wyoming’s existing narrative water quality criteria are exceeded due to nutrient pollution. WDEQ plans to share drafts of any proposed changes with the Nutrient Work Group before incorporating the recommendations into Wyoming’s Methods for Determining Surface Water Quality Condition and releasing for public comment.

Point Sources

  • Frequently Asked Questions: With input from the Wyoming Nutrient Work Group, DEQ developed a nutrient pollution frequently asked questions for point sources.
  • Lagoon Optimization Training: DEQ has been coordinating with the Environmental Protection Agency and Wyoming Association of Rural Water to host a lagoon optimization training in May 2020 that will be led by Steve Harris.
  • Trainings and Workshops: In November 2019, DEQ staff attended a nutrient permitting workshop hosted by the Association of Clean Water Administrators to learn about improvements in nutrient removal technology and permitting flexibilities and innovations. In September 2019, DEQ staff attended the 34th Annual WaterReuse Symposium to explore innovations in water recycling.

Nonpoint Sources

  • DEQ’s Nonpoint Source Program Coordinator, Jennifer Zygmunt, has provided regular updates to the Nonpoint Source Task Force (a board of 13 citizens appointed by the Governor to oversee the Nonpoint Source Program) about DEQ’s efforts to reduce nutrient pollution. Discussions with the board have included how Nonpoint Source Program grant funding can be used to help address nutrient pollution in Wyoming’s surface waters.
  • In July 2019, Jennifer Zygmunt presented the status of DEQ’s efforts to address nutrient pollution to the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) State Technical Advisory Committee.

DEQ Nutrient Studies

  • Brooks Lake: Brooks Lake was included on the 2018 303(d) List of Impaired Waters requiring a total maximum daily load (TMDL) for not meeting its aquatic life designated uses due to excess nutrients and elevated pH. DEQ is working with the United States Forest Service and other stakeholders to develop a monitoring plan to better understand the source of nutrients to the lake. Sampling is scheduled to begin in 2020, with more intensive sampling phased in for 2022.
  • Fish Creek: Since the mid-2000’s the Teton Conservation District (TCD) and the USGS have been investigating nuisance algal growth in Fish Creek, a Class 1 stream near Wilson, Wyoming. Using the USGS work as a springboard, DEQ has been working with the TCD since 2016 to collect and evaluate water quality data to determine whether Fish Creek is meeting its designated uses. Monitoring efforts were directed at collecting data for assessing the effects of nutrients on the stream’s biological communities. A complete evaluation of the DEQ/TCD data currently is in progress.