Applied Ecosystem Services, LLC

  1. Aquatic Life Water Quality Standard

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    The EPA, and many state regulators, consider aquatic life to be the highest designated beneficial use of water. Closely related to this water quality standard is “fishable and swimmable”. The latter is easier to define and to assess attainment: if fish are present all water quality variables suit their needs; when there are no human parasites or known toxic chemicals water quality is swimmable. The aquatic life water quality standard is not as easy to define and measure.
  2. Photo of Avoiding Permit Compliance Actions

    Avoiding Compliance Actions

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    Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

    Every business complying with environmental laws can be profitable and sustainable while operating responsibly. Learning how to go beyond minimal permit compliance requirements to avoid regulatory compliance enforcement actions is as important as are other aspects of your job or operations when you are responsible for environmental permits. The rapidly warming climate and resulting more frequent and severe weather patterns such as megadroughts, massive wildland fire, severe flooding, hotter summers, and colder winters affect environmental permit holders in unpredictable ways.
  3. Avoiding permit compliance issues

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    We live in a time of rapid changes and uncertainties in our climate, health, and economy. The “new normal” is not likely to stabilize for at least another year. The western US is entering the third decade of a megadrought that Columbia University’s Lamont Geological Observatory considers to be the worst in 1,200 years. The megadrought affects the area bounded approximately by the Columbia River on the north, northern Mexico to the south, the Rocky Mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean on the west.
  4. Beneficial uses

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    The Clean Water Act’s (CWA) Section 301(m)(2) reads: “The effluent limitations established under a permit issued under paragraph (1) shall be sufficient to implement the applicable State water quality standards, to assure the protection of public water supplies and protection and propagation of a balanced, indigenous population of shellfish, fish, fauna, wildlife, and other aquatic organisms, and to allow recreational activities in and on the water. In setting such limitations, the Administrator shall take into account any seasonal variations and the need for an adequate margin of safety, considering the lack of essential knowledge concerning the relationship between effluent limitations and water quality and the lack of essential knowledge of the effects of discharges on beneficial uses of the receiving waters.
  5. Biological water quality standards

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    The basis for setting water quality standards is decades out of date, given our current understanding of environmental data and availability of recently developed statistical models. The use of a single maximum concentration limit (MCL) for individual chemical elements does not reflect natural ecosystem function nor provide accurate indications of whether regulated industrial activities adversely impact the specific designated beneficial uses of surface or ground waters at specific locations. Water is a complex mixture of compounds, not individual ions, and concentrations vary with temperature, pH, binding and release with inorganic and organic substrata, and other factors.
  6. Complex environmental data

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    From baseline conditions for environmental impact assessments to compliance with regulatory permit conditions regulated companies collect biological data and report analytical results to regulators and other interested parties. Historically, analyses used biotic diversity and integrity indices. These attempt to summarize highly complex natural ecosystems in a single number believed to make comparisons and decisions easier. While these indices are based on ecological theory they are very difficult, even impossible, to measure and quantitatively compare.
  7. Ecological risk analysis

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    Toxic metals and organic compounds are commonly present at very low concentrations in water, sediments, soils, and rocks. Concentrations cannot be quantified with 99% certainty; if those chemicals are present the instrument cannot distinguish them from zero. Concentrations below laboratory reporting limits are censored because their values are unknown. Censored values can be 70-80% of the available date, a meaningful amount of valuable information. Correct analysis of censored data is particularly important when performing an ecological risk analysis (ERA) as part of the CERCLA Superfund process.
  8. Photo of Effective Regulation of Water Quality

    Effective Water Quality Regulation

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    Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

    Current regulation of water quality, based on the statutes they implement, fail to effectively describe the current state of water bodies. There are historical and political reasons for this condition but no excuse to continue as we have for the past almost 60 years. Our understanding of aquatic ecosystems and the development of appropriate statistical models for environmental data provide the means to more effectively regulate water quality to benefit natural ecosystems and human health.
  9. Photo of Environmental Decision-Making in Uncertain Times

    Environmental Decision-making

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    Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

    Every business complying with environmental laws can be profitable and sustainable while operating environmentally responsibly. Environmental aspects may not have the same importance to you as other business aspects, but it’s under your control to avoid issues that can cost time and money better spent elsewhere. You should take action now to limit your risk of costly or damaging environmental issues such as permit compliance enforcement. Acting now is especially important because the future is uncertain and the present is constantly changing.
  10. Environmental regulations 1

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    After 50 years it is time to bring environmental policy and regulatory decision making into the 21st century by applying statistical paradigms that produce technically sound and legally defensible results from environmental data. When the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and National Environmental Policy Act were created, and federal agencies directed to develop regulations to ensure compliance with them, biologists and ecologists knew less about environmental systems and data analyses than we do today.

Providing essential environmental services since 1993.